Quick Recipes and Easy

Home-Cooked Ham

Ham, gammon, whatever you like to call it (I still haven’t worked out at which point in the cooking process a gammon becomes a ham), a home cooked ham glazed with mustard is a worthy centrepiece for any celebration.. Cold it gives a focus to a buffet lunch, it’s warm colour and smoky flavour providing an brilliant counterpoint to plain roast chickens and creamy quiches. Served hot in winter it is warming and can sit alongside mountains of potatoes and roasted vegetables to make a excellent hearty meal.

A friend of ours around the hill keeps brindled pigs on a small scale, looks after them well and produces his own wonderful bacon, hams, sausages and the rest. Our enormous 4kg Christmas ham was unsurpassed: tender, sweet, delicately smoky it was eaten up in no time with not nearly enough leftovers. Last time we had to get two smaller 2kg(4lb) hams as all the huge ones had gone. They didn’t quite hit the taste sensation heights of Christmas but were brilliant by any less exalted standards.

If you want to cook your own ham, go for the best ham you can from a excellent butcher or small farmer – large scale commercially produced ones lose out on flavour somewhere along the line, though can still produce satisfying results.

How to cook your gammon / ham

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 place 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 1hr per kilo plus 20 minutes or 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.

Gammon/ham weighing about 2kg/4lbs
1litre/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 place all the ingredients except the sugar into a huge 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 stout and smother the stout 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 place in a teaspoon of mustard powder too to thicken the glaze. Experiment with your favourite flavours. Mustard is always a excellent one for ham though. The glaze should be honestly thick, so it doesn’t run straight off the ham again. Place the glazed ham under the grill/broiler for ten minutes or so to set it.

Always cook yourself a larger ham than you really need as the leftovers are so excellent you’ll be pleased to eat them all week!

Don’t even reckon about throwing out the cooking liquid from the ham. This stock makes the most wonderful thick winter soups, particularly with pulses – lentils or beans, there is so much flavour there already you can just throw in a cup of lentils and have an instant soup ready in as long as it takes them to cook. Freeze the stock in conveniently sized containers to bring out whenever you need a warming, flavourful supper.

Copyright Kit Heathcock 2007

Kit Heathcock – worked and travelled in Italy for many years, is passionate about food and likes being a fulltime mother. Co-creator of aflowergallery.com A Flower Gallery home of original flower pictures, food-and-family.com Food and Family and fantastic-books-reviewed.blogspot.com Fantastic Books Reviewed

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