Per­fect Christ­mas ham

The Guardian - Feast - - News - Felic­ity Cloake

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

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