What a treat to have a joint of ham in the fridge over the Christmas holidays. It’s my favourite for Boxing Day, but also makes a perfect stand-by when you can’t cook another thing - or for putting in a pie or soup when your energy returns. Not to mention the guilty pleasure to be had in picking away at it when no-one’s looking…
The pleasure is doubled, however, when you’ve cooked the ham yourself. There are so many recipes for cooking a gammon joint (and turning it into ham) but the basics remain the same. First, you need to decide on whether you’d like to buy an smoked gammon or unsmoked gammon joint (which bacon do you prefer?) then you need to work out the size and calculate the cooking time (approximately 30 mins per 450g/1lb.) Generally, you don’t need to soak the joint overnight first these days, but do check with your butcher just in case.
Cooking your ham
Put your ham in a large pan of cold water and add any flavour you’d like. I like to add a few onions, carrots, a stick of celery and some bay leaves to start, then perhaps some black peppercorns, a handful of cloves and a stick of cinnamon. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer according to your cooking times, skimming off any froth as you go. You’ll need to top up with water now and again. Then drain, reserving the stock for pea and ham soup if you like, and leave to cool.
Glazing your ham
Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC. Carefully pull off the top layer of skin without removing any fat, score the skin with a criss-cross pattern, put the joint in a foil-lined oven dish and brush on a glaze of your choice. Which is the fun bit!
Prue Leith – who I often defer to – keeps it simple with a thin layer of dry English mustard followed by a generous layer of demerera sugar (or honey if you prefer). But for Christmas you may want something more indulgent.
A maple syrup and course grain mustard glaze is delicious, studded with cloves for extra drama. If you’re feeling really wicked, you can replace the water with approx. 2 litres of coca cola at the boiling stage – finished with a maple syrup and mustard glaze this is a truly sticky affair….
Recently, I tried a lovely glaze from food-writer Felicity Cloak. Mix 5 tbsp of dark brown sugar, 1.5 tbsp of English mustard, the grated zest of half an orange, and 20ml of ginger wine. Apply once at the start, and again half way through cooking, adding a sprinkle of sugar. I also studded my joint with cloves (it is Christmas, after all.)
Whatever you choose, reserve some of the glaze for basting half way through. You’ll need to roast the joint for approximately 35 mins (or until the glaze has caramelised.) And bear in mind if the glaze is too runny it is difficult to apply - you can always add a sprinkling of flour in the mix if this is the case.
Good luck! And if anyone comes up with a cracking glaze of their own, please let me know.