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Family Meals




Ham - Home Cooked (Gammon)

By: Kit Heathcock   (2007-08-22)

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.. Served cold it gives a focus to a summer buffet lunch, its warm colour and smoky flavour providing an excellent 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 good 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 4 kg Christmas ham was unsurpassed: tender, sweet, delicately smoky it was eaten up in no time with not nearly enough leftovers. A huge summer family celebration demanded cold ham again recently and 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 smoked gammon you can from a good butcher or small farmer and if you can source a local, organically-raised one all the better – large scale commercially produced ones lose out on flavour somewhere along the line, though can still produce acceptable 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 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.

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!

Don’t even think 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



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