HAM ES­SEN­TIALS

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - STYLE -

CHOOS­ING YOUR HAM

Al­low 300g per per­son for ham on the bone, 200g per per­son off the bone. It’s worth order­ing a ham on­line (see stockists over­leaf ), as the su­per­mar­kets only have small joints.

BONE IN OR BONELESS?

The most de­li­cious, juici­est meat is cooked on the bone, and af­ter all the ham is fin­ished you can use the bone to make a fan­tas­tic broth. Bone-in joints are gen­er­ally huge, whole legs weigh­ing 6kg or more, al­though a few sup­pli­ers will sell a half leg. Boned hams, mean­while, come in what­ever size suits you, are eas­ier to carve, and still taste great.

TO SOAK OR NOT TO SOAK?

These days, it’s gen­er­ally not nec­es­sary to soak gam­mon (un­cooked ham) to make it less salty be­fore cook­ing. That said, some will ben­e­fit from a soak in cold wa­ter overnight (ide­ally not longer than that: you don’t want to re­move all the trade­mark salin­ity), es­pe­cially if you plan to bake the ham out­right rather than sim­mer­ing it in broth first (see ‘how to cook’ over­leaf ). The pro­ducer’s in­struc­tions should say if they ex­pect you to soak, but the only way to be sure is to slice off a sliver and cook it quickly in a fry­ing pan. This will prob­a­bly make the slice a bit tough and dry, but it lets you taste and judge. Bear in mind that the edge may be a bit saltier than the mid­dle.

How do you feed a crowd at Christ­mas? I think I’ve got it nailed. With 18 peo­ple com­ing for Box­ing Day lunch this year (how did I let that hap­pen?!) it will be a sim­ple meal, a reprise of a suc­cess­ful Christ­mas Eve din­ner from a few years back: a whole, hot ham glazed in the oven. Then, we ate it with boiled pota­toes, and a pars­ley liquor – a sort of thin sauce-meets-soup – and green crinkly shreds of but­tered cab­bage. It was the right food at the right time, eaten out of deep soup plates and fol­lowed by mince pies, cream and clemen­tines. There were lots of left­overs for sand­wiches, sal­ads and soup: cold ham is a much more use­ful thing to find in the fridge than tur­key.

This year I’ll be do­ing it in red wine and fen­nel, or maybe a fiery gin­ger ver­sion. That’s the great thing about a ham. There are lots of op­tions: just flavour the broth with some herbs, spices, booze or all three, and add the side dishes and rel­ishes. Bring out all the jars of chut­ney and pile them into bowls. Stack up the plates, and get stuck in.

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