by Paul Langworthy
Christmas isn’t Christmas without a Christmas ham! It’s Christmas in a ball of tasty glazed meat. Served warm after cooking with roasted new potatoes and salad, served cold in a thick white bread sandwich with lashings of butter and mayonnaise on Christmas Day night or as part of a Boxing Day cold meat platter with your leftover turkey, beef or goose. It’s a dish that can last the whole Christmas week, as part of your main Christmas Day serving, when family or friends drop in to say hello in the festive break or to quench a hunger pang on a cold afternoon with the fire on and a Christmas film on the tv. The Christmas Ham is a ‘must have’ in your festive food armoury.
With budgets tight this year, pork is relatively good value for money and you can get a good portion of uncooked gammon (not smoked, off the bone) at a reasonable price from most supermarkets or, of course, your local butcher. I make my ham on the 22nd or 23rd and if I get a good size portion it can last until the new year. The great thing about making your own ham is that it tastes so much nicer than one from the shops that are factory made en-masse and, surprisingly, it’s really quite easy to make. And it’s cheaper too. It takes a bit of time but the steps are easy. I’ve made a ham for the last 7 or 8 years and over time I’ve learnt to keep it pretty simple. The key is in two things; how you boil it and, most importantly, the glaze. This is my recipe and I hope you enjoy making it as much as I do.
The first key ingredient is a nice bottle of red wine – not for making the ham, but to enjoy a glass or two as you make it. Once that’s opened and you’ve got the Christmas songs playing on your radio, you are ready to start!
For cooking the ham
- 2 carrots (don’t peel them, just chop them up roughly into medium size chunks)
- 2 pieces of celery (as per the carrots, just chop them into chunks)
- 2 onions (peeled and chopped in half)
- A handful of bay leaves
- 15 to 20 Peppercorns
- Lots of cloves!
- Allspice berries if you can, but if not, some allspice powder is just fine.
- A joint of gammon, make sure it’s tied (off the bone, non smoked).
For your glaze
- 50g cherry conserve or a really good jam
- 100ml of whiskey or bourbon
- A piece of of root ginger (peel and finely grate)
- 1tbsp light soft brown sugar (you don’t have to use sugar though but it does make it sweeter)
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
You’re going to need a very large saucepan or even cooking pot depending on how big your joint is as it has to be covered in water. If it’s not big enough, just remember to turn the gammon upside down when cooking half way through the cooking process. So put your ham into the pot and fill with water, and bring to the boil. Once boiled, take it off the heat, drain the water, get the ham out of the pot and wash away all the white residue. Beware the ham will be very hot.
- Put the ham back into the clean pot and fill again with cold water. Add into the pot the following;
- Carrots – don’t peel them, just chop them roughly into chunks.
- Celery, again just chop them into rough chunks
- Peel the onions, chop them in half so you can get them in the pot, and stick loads of cloves in them – really important.
- Put the peppercorns, allspice berries or powder (I’m quite liberal with that stuff and use a couple of tablespoons) and the bay leaves into the pan, and bring it all back to the boil. Once boiling, put the lid on the pot and reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes per 500 grams. The smell at that point is divine with all the spices infusing.
- Once done, drain the ham, take it out of the pot and let it cool for a few minutes – the rind on the joint will be very hot!
- Get your oven going at this point to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6.
- Put your joint in a roasting tray. With a sharp knife, take off the rind (the outer skin) of the joint, leaving a fatty layer on top of the meat. Don’t cut too much of the fat off as you want that layer on the meat. It’s much easier than it sounds.
- Once you’ve taken all the rind off, you need to use the same knife to score lines into the fat running diagonally along the joint. Once you’ve done that one way, do the lines in the opposite direction to create a diamond pattern on the joint.
- Then you need to place a clove at each corner of each diamond on the joint.
Now to make the glaze;
- Blend the cherry conserve or jam using a blender or food mixer, or just whisk it with a fork if that’s all you’ve got to make it as smooth as possible. Put the whiskey, cinnamon, ginger and sugar in a saucepan and add the jam. Bring to the boil then simmer for 15 minutes. BEWARE – because of the sugar it will be extremely hot – do NOT dip your finger in when it’s hot as it will burn – I know this from experience. But you want this to reduce until it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Then use a cooking brush to lather it all over the ham. Don’t spare any!
- Once glazed, the joint goes into the oven and let it roast for 20 or 25 minutes. It will turn a lovely colour and will smell amazing when you take it out of the oven. Let it cool down a little before you have your first slice, but rest assured, once you start, you wont stop eating it! I hope you enjoy it.
Love Uncle Paul