Sweet Tea-Brined Ham With Lemon Glaze

Southern Living Sweet Tea Brined Ham with Lemon Glaze on a platter to serve

Active Time:

20 mins

Total Time:

6 hrs 20 mins



Sweet tea is sacrosanct to Southerners. We know this because when we suggested people add baking soda to their sweet tea for a perfectly clear pour, we could hear the gasps from our offices.

Restaurants sell it by the gallon. Recipes are protected like family heirlooms. People have been known to arm wrestle over the last drops.

So it might seem blasphemous to suggest taking a gallon of sweet tea and using it to brine ham. But we think it’s the ultimate praise to know that this prized drink can be so versatile that you’ll want it in your tea glass and on your ham.

Whether at Easter, Thanksgiving, or any other gathering, this sweet tea-brined ham will be a hit. The salty-sweet nature of the brine helps tenderize and flavor the meat, and the lemon glaze is the perfect way to finish it off, just as a lemon slice is the perfect finish to a glass of sweet tea.

Serve with glazed carrots, hashbrown casserole, and a leafy green salad.

Tips for a Better Brined Ham

It’s critical to use an unseasoned fully cooked ham. Many brands of fully-cooked and spiral-cut hams are injected with a salt and sugar solution to make it juicier and “extra-tender.” There’s no need to brine meat that’s already been seasoned because it turns out too salty.

The labels can be confusing. One tip that might help: We’ve found that all of the boneless hams are pre-brined, but none of the semi-boneless hams are. It might not be true for your grocery store, so ask the butcher if you aren’t sure. 

It’s important to not let the ham stay in the brine longer than four hours. A longer soak turns the meat somehow both mushy and dry.

The standard internal temp for heating a fully cooked ham is 140°F, but the temp continues to rise during the high-temp glazing process.


Brine and Ham

  • 1 gallon water
  • 8 family-size black tea bags
  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 4 cups ice, or as needed
  • 5- to 7-lb. unseasoned, semi-boneless, fully cooked ham

Lemon Glaze

  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 5 Tbsp. lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 5 large lemons)
  • 1/3 cup grainy Dijon or Creole mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper


  1. Prepare sweet tea brine and brine the ham:Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the brown sugar and salt, and stir until dissolved. Add the ice and stir to melt and completely cool the brine. Place the ham in a large container and pour in the brine. The ham must be submerged, so add more ice if needed. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. Drain, discard the brine, and blot the ham dry.
  2. Roast the ham:Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place the ham in a roasting pan and cover tightly with foil. Roast for 12 to 15 minutes per pound or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the ham registers 130°F.
  3. Prepare lemon glaze:Meanwhile, make the glaze. Stir brown sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, prepared mustard, ground mustard, and black pepper together in a large bowl until smoothly combined.
  4. Glaze the ham:Remove the ham from the oven and uncover. Increase the oven temperature to 425°F. Spread half of the glaze over the ham. Return to the oven and roast for 5 minutes or until the glaze bubbles. Pour the rest of the glaze over the ham and continue roasting for 5 to 10 minutes more, or until the glaze sizzles and begins to blister in spots.
  5. Serve:Let the ham rest for 20 to 30 minutes before serving. Baste frequently with the pan juices, which will thicken as they cool. Serve warm or at room temperature, drizzling the slices with pan juices.Sweet Tea Brined Ham with Lemon Glaze in the roasting pan with glazeCAITLIN BENSEL; FOOD STYLIST: TORIE COX