Perfect Christmas ham
Christmas is perhaps the only remaining occasion when we can indulge an atavistic lust for huge hunks of flesh without an accompanying saucing of guilt – after all, you can’t begrudge tradition. Three vegetarian days a week, 51 weeks a year, equals (if you’re lucky enough to be able to be able to afford it) one enormous turkey, a side of salmon and, to top things off nicely, the king of the feast, a great pink ham sitting in pomp on the sideboard.
This last is, naturally, always surplus to requirements, given the 6kg of cold poultry still in the fridge alongside the pork pie and cold chipolatas, but as one of the tastier of this season’s many pointless traditions, it’s well worth honouring so long as you commit to doing it justice. Buy the best pork you can afford (organic, free-range or outdoor-reared), and cook it yourself, and you’ll have leftovers worth pigging out on.
Thankfully, and unlike turkey, which needs to be stuffed into sandwiches before the year has run its course, ham is the gift that will keep on giving well into the new one. Even if you can’t run to the medieval magnificence of a whole leg, a smaller ham will still feed a good crowd. And when it’s finally done, well, you can go back to those vegetables for another year.
Perfect Christmas ham
Rich, dark and spicy sweet, this ham should keep bringing festive cheer long after the big day is over.
To serve eight generously, put a 2kg boneless gammon joint in a large stock pot and pour in enough cold water to cover. Add three tablespoons of molasses (or black treacle), a teaspoon each of cloves and allspice, a pinch of mace, one bay leaf, a tablespoon of black peppercorns and the peel of half an orange, cut into strips. Bring the water slowly up to a simmer, skimming off any froth as you go, then simmer very gently for about an hour and a half (topping up the pot with more boiling water, if necessary), or until the internal temperature of the ham hits 68C (if you don’t have a digital probe, this is an ideal excuse to buy yourself an early Christmas present – you can get a decent one for as little as £20).
Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/gas 7. Lift the ham out of the hot stock (which can be cooled, saved and used to make delicious baked beans another day), leave to cool slightly, then carefully cut off all the skin, leaving as much fat on the joint as possible. Score this all over in a diamond pattern, stud each intersection with a clove and transfer the ham to a foil-lined roasting tray.
Now for the glaze. Put five tablespoons of brown sugar, one and a half tablespoons of mustard powder, the grated zest of the other half of the orange and 20ml ginger wine in a bowl, and stir to a thick paste. Brush this all over the fat on the outside of the ham, then bake in the hot ovenfor about 25 minutes, basting twice and adding a sprinkle more sugar as it cooks, until the glaze is browned, caramelised and bubbling. Leave the ham to cool completely before carving and serving.
A traditional roast ham: leftovers worth pigging out on