The holiday ham has historically been the hearty centerpiece of many African American tables, with exact recipes and traditions dependent upon each cook’s regional cuisine and passed-down family traditions. To make it vegan for my table, I employed the same glaze, but substituted smoked tofu, smoked paprika, and liquid smoke to evoke that long-smoked ham.
Before arriving in America, most Africans did not consume pork. Instead, their diets consisted mainly of small portions of other meats and mostly vegetables. However, during slavery, it became one of the few animal proteins they were able to eat. Slaves were typically given the most unsavory parts of the meat and had to improvise creatively with seasonings, spices, and vegetables to doctor their dishes into edible fare.
Occasionally during the holiday season, slaves were occasionally given more substantial portions of the pig and allowed to briefly cook and commune with each other. These short moments would become a time of fellowship that is reflected in the culture’s holiday meals today.
In the South, the traditional holiday ham is prepared with a brown sugar glaze. This sweet and salty combination goes back more than 100 years and was likely created by slaves, since molasses and sugar cane were readily available to them and used for cooking a variety of dishes.
Today, this sugar glaze has become a Southern holiday staple in and outside of the African American community. This mustard-glazed ham recipe combines the creativity of plant-based ingredients with the comfort of the traditional dish, to create a holiday centerpiece that celebrates the sweetness of the holiday season.
Mustard Glazed Seitan Ham and Southern Style Biscuits
- 14 ounces extra firm smoked tofu, drained
- 3/4 cup vegan bouillon or vegetable stock
- 1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon liquid smoke
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 and 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 4 tablespoons dijon mustard
- whole cloves for garnish, optional
Southern Style Biscuits
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup vegan butter, firm and chopped
- 1/2 cup unsweetened plant milk of choice
Squeeze the drained tofu to remove any remaining moisture, and then break the tofu into small pieces.
In a food processor, add the tofu along with the rest of the ingredients—except the vital wheat gluten—and blend until pureed.
Pour the tofu mixture into a large bowl, then add in the vital wheat gluten and mix together until combined.
Transfer the mixture to a clean countertop and knead until a dense and rubbery dough has formed, about 3 to 5 minutes. If needed, sprinkle with more wheat gluten to thicken.
Mold the dough into a ham-shaped loaf and tightly wrap in tin foil, making sure that none of the loaf (now known as seitan) is exposed.
Place the ham in a large pot with a steamer basket (or use a metal strainer or colander in a pinch). Fill the pot with enough water to reach just below the steamer basket.
Cover with a lid and steam the ham for 1 hour on medium heat. Check the water frequently and add more water if it gets too low.
While the ham is steaming, preheat the oven to 375F.
In a small bowl, whisk the glaze ingredients together and set aside.
Once the ham has steamed, remove from the heat and allow to cool before removing from the foil.
Unwrap the ham and transfer to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, score the ham in a crisscross pattern and garnish with whole cloves if desired.
Place the ham in a small baking dish and pour over the mustard glaze.
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. For a brown exterior, finish cooking the ham under the broiler on high for 4-5 minutes.
Slice and serve with your favorite holiday sides, including southern-style biscuits.
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, add your flour, baking powder, and salt. Add your chopped butter, and use your hands to mix into the dough, until a crumbly, thick texture remains. Add your milk and mix until just combined.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and then gently fold the dough over 5 to 6 times, kneading only lightly. Add more flour as needed to prevent sticking.
Form into 1-inch thick discs and place biscuits on a baking sheet in two rows.
Brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter and gently make a small indent in the center using your thumb to help them evenly rise.
Bake the biscuits for 12 to 15 minutes, until they just begin to brown.
Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.
More vegan soul food recipes
To cook more of my vegan soul food recipes, including sweet corn crème brulée, vegan smothered pork chops with cauliflower mash, and my vegan version of turkey and cranberry sauce, read up on all the deliciousness here.