Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ham

Half of my blog’s name has been shamefully under-represented in the last few weeks, not because we haven’t been eating or feasting (we have) but because there have been so many other things going on that food has had to be relegated to a back burner. A few burnt pans and boiled dry steamers lie undetected among the detritus of the last few posts but now it is time to wax lyrical on food once more.

Ham, gammon, call it what you will, a home cooked gammon glazed with mustard is a worthy centrepiece for any celebration. My mother-in-law decreed a party for her 85th birthday, a family summons went out and we prepared a feast for 45 people at our house last weekend. The idea of a braai at lunch time in high summer was voted out (the unfortunate braai master after having braaied enough meat for so many would have been well enough cooked to be on the menu himself), so we settled for a cold buffet lunch and a happily raised ham was on the menu, as well as roast chickens, quiches, salads and much else. 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 Christmas ham was unsurpassed: tender, sweet, delicately smoky and gobbled up in no time. This time we had to get two smaller 2kg(4lb) hams as all the big ones had gone. They didn’t quite hit the taste sensation heights of Christmas but were excellent by any less exalted standards.

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

How to cook your gammon / ham

I take Nigella’s advice from How to Eat. 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 1hr per kg 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 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.

Glaze
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.

The stock absolutely must be frozen for delicious winter soups, it is wonderful for lentil soup in particular. You can use some of it for a couscous salad to go with the ham too. My freezer is now chock a block with containers of ham stock and chicken stock from Christmas, New Year and last weekends party, as soon as autumn hits we’ll be having a soup festival.

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!

6 comments:

  1. Mmm, this is definitely something I would like to try. It is pretty hard to find a good cut here though, as they seem to fancy a weird way of butchering. Maybe I can convince the butcher to do it my way.

    My stomach is grumbling...

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  2. Sounds glorious. One of the things we've had to get used in Germany - land of Schwein - is that you don't find these large gammons to roast. It's a bit sad, really. One day I'll live in a gammon country again and then I'm definitely going to try your honey and mustard gammon glaze. I also fancy Nigella's Coke glaze!

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  3. It's strange how the same animal in different countries turns into unrecognisable cuts of meat - culinary traditions lost in translation.

    I tried Nigella's Coke gammon recipe, Charlotte, and it was good, but I still prefer the cider one for regular use.

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  4. This sounds delicious! Printing this up for our Easter ham! Thanks Kit. :)

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  5. hey, just stopping by. It smells delicious!

    ttyl,
    pam

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  6. Oh my mouth is watering!

    Where I am it is very difficult to get a good ham. Most of them are filled with a lot of ingredients (MSG and other chemicals I try to avoid) so I rarely make this. But it is one of my favorites.

    And tomorrow night I'm making lentils, and sure wish I had this stock to cook them in!

    Filing this idea away for future use.

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Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!