Christmas time is a great time for a nice country ham. But the store bought hams tend to be too salty for my taste so I take Nigella Lawson’s advice. Instead of soaking the ham to get rid of excess salt from the smoking process, I cover it with cold water in a large stock pot, bring it just to the boil, then throw out the water and put in fresh cold water. I then add the rest of the ingredients and bring it back up to the boil again and start the cooking time from this point. Check with your butcher though, if he says that the ham doesn’t need soaking at all then you’ll be ok without this step, unless you’d like to get rid of some of the salt anyway.
To calculate cooking time work on 30 minutes per lb plus 20 minutes. The meat should be loosening from the bone slightly without crumbling completely to pieces when it is cooked.
- Ham weighing about 4lbs
- 1.5 pints apple juice or cider
- 2 carrots
- 2 sticks celery
- 2 medium onions
- 4 bay leaves
- 8 whole cloves
- 10 peppercorns
- bunch of herbs (thyme, parsley, rosemary)
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
After you have got rid of excess salt as above, put all the ingredients except the sugar into a big pot, cover with cold water and bring to boiling point. Add the sugar now. Turn the heat down so that the water is simmering not too energetically and cook for the allotted time as above. If you are going to eat the gammon hot you can serve at once. If you want it cold, leave to cool in the stock to retain moistness in the meat. Once it is cool take the ham out of the stock. Cut the tough rind away from the fat and smother the fat and meat with your chosen glaze ingredients.
My favourite glaze is a mix of grainy mustard and dark brown sugar, two tablespoons of each mixed together. Sometimes I squeeze in some orange juice or use honey instead of sugar, then I usually put in a teaspoon of mustard powder too to thicken the glaze. Experiment with your favourite flavours. Mustard is always a good one for ham though. The glaze should be fairly thick, so it doesn’t run straight off the ham again. Put the glazed ham under the grill/broiler for ten minutes or so to set it.
Always cook yourself a bigger ham than you actually need as the leftovers are so good you’ll be happy to eat them all week!