This time of year I love warm cozy meals featuring fall ingredients, like apples. I also love simple stove-top meals that come together fast. This dish fits both criteria and is a staple in my house. It is an easy weeknight meal that I can put on the table in less than 20 minutes. It takes some of my favorite ingredients – ham, apples, maple syrup and Dijon mustard – and combines them to create sweet and savory goodness. Mustard and apples may seem like an odd combination, but trust me, it’s delicious. Even my two year old thinks so. Pair it with a side of steamed veggies and it’s a prefect meal for fall or any time of year.
Before I share the recipe, here’s the story behind the simple, but delicious ingredients.
Ham Steak – Ham steaks are simply thick slices of a whole cured ham. Ham is pork leg-meat that has been preserved through salting, smoking, or wet curing. Ham steaks are usually bone-in and cut from the center, which is the leanest and best part of the ham. They are an incredibly versatile cut. Ham steaks can be the star of a meal or diced and added to everything from omelets to soups. Iowa is the number one pork producing state. Hog farming alone generates $7.5 billion in economic activity for our state. One more reason to keep ham in the fridge!
You can almost always find ham steaks in the grocery store pre-cut, or you can ask a butcher to slice off steaks from a whole or half ham. Ham steaks come thick (about 1 inch) or thin cut (1/4-1/2 inch). I use thin in this recipe, but thick would also work well and serve more people.
Maple Syrup – Not to be confused with maple-flavored syrup, pure maple syrup begins as sap in a Sugar Maple tree. The sap is harvested in the spring when days are warm and nights cool below the freezing point. Trees are tapped using a drill to make a small hole. A spile is inserted into the hole and the sap drips out if conditions are right. The sap either drips into a bucket or flows down a special tube to a holding tank. Maple sap is clear, slightly sweet, and very thin. The distinctive maple flavor and thick consistency of syrup is developed through careful heating to evaporate most of the water. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.
Dijon Mustard – Mustard is made by combining ground mustard seeds with vinegar, water, spices and flavorings. The mustard plant is a cruciferous vegetable related to broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. Mustard is grown commercially in Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon and Washington. Dijon mustard refers to a style of prepared mustard that that originated in the Dijon, France. The traditional Dijon mustard recipe included wine vinegar and brown or black mustard seeds. American yellow mustard is made with white mustard seeds, which are actually yellow in color.
Apple Cider Vinegar – As its name implies, apple cider vinegar is the fermented juice of apples. It is made by crushing apples and squeezing out the liquid. It is then fermented by adding bacteria and yeast to turn the sugars in the cider to vinegar.
Apples – Apples are the second most consumed fruit, following oranges. They are also one of the most valuable tree crops in the United States. Every state grows them, and 29 states raise apples commercially. Washington produces about 70 percent of U.S. grown apples. Although it is not a top producing state now, Iowa has a rich apple history. The Delicious apple was discovered here by a Madison County farmer, and Iowa was a top apple producing until the devastating Armistice Day Ice Storm of 1940 severely damaged orchards across the state.
Butter – Fresh whole milk from dairy farms is collected and brought to the creamery. The cream is separated from the milk and rapidly heated to a high temperature. Pasteurization removes any disease causing bacteria and helps the butter stay fresh longer. The cream is then churned by shaking or beating it vigorously until it thickens. The remaining liquid, appropriately called buttermilk, is removed. The clumps of butter are then washed and formed into sticks or blocks. Check out this video to see exactly how butter is made today, or try making butter at home. All you need is heavy whipping cream and a glass jar!
1 ham steak (1-1 ½ lbs.)
2 T butter
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1½ T Dijon Mustard
1 T apple cider vinegar
1 T water
2 large apples, sliced or cut into 1’ chunks
- Brown ham in large non-stick skillet over medium heat-high, about 1-2 minutes on each side or until heated through. Remove from pan. If desired, cut into serving size-pieces or bite-size pieces for easy serving.
- Melt butter. Stir in maple syrup, mustard, vinegar and water.
- Add apples. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stir occasionally until the apples are cooked through. Add a little more water while cooking if sauce becomes too thick.
- Return the ham to the skillet or pour apples over ham on a serving platter.