Growing up, my Dad occasionally made a Christmas ham. I remember it sometimes being on the plate with the leftover turkey and stuffing when his family came over for Boxing Day, but a Christmas ham did not start to become a 'thing' in our house until the year I sat down and read Nigella Lawson's Feast cover to cover (yes, Nigella is my guru for all recipes Christmas!) In the week before Christmas ever since I've made her Ham in Cherry Coke with its beautiful cherry, paprika and clove glaze, but this year I found a great shortcut which will make your life a little easier if your a first time ham maker (process on paper can look a little intimidating!)
The answer? Smoked Chilli Honey. Gran Luchito sent me a jar, along with a beautiful 2kg ham from Lake Haven Farm (via Market Porter) to try out this year, and it totally cut out the need to make up your own glaze in a saucepan (it also means less mess!) as the smoked chilli gives that smoky edge I love and now come to expect at Christmas on a ham, and the requisite sweetness needed on the glaze.
Usually each year I set a whole day aside for my ham starting it in the morning, and glazing it in the afternoon, but I've been so stupidly busy this year (and even though I'm on a Christmas break in Brittany at the moment, I think Boxing Day and the day after are the only days I'm not completely booked up until January 1st!) I made the ham in two parts across two days which worked perfectly, so you can do both steps in the evening after work if you're working right up until the big day (Christmas ham makes great sandwiches with fresh bread and plenty of mustard (I'm more than slightly obsessed with this special edition from Maille made with Chablis, Black Truffle and Cep at the moment!) by way of a festive packed lunch!)
I don't see much point in telling you how many your ham will serve (assuming you're using a 2kg piece of gammon to start off with), as all of this is just for the two of us. The whole point is to have it in the fridge for a couple of days for sandwiches, light suppers and possibly a pie. Use your own judgement, depending on what other leftovers you know you're getting, for example if you have a family tradition of roast beef on Christmas Eve, or you're big fish fans who like to cure a whole side of salmon for the fridge.
- 2kg Piece Boneless, Mild Cure Gammon
- 1 litre Coca Cola
- 1 Small Onion
- 1/2 Jar Gran Luchito Smoked Chilli Honey
- Handful Whole Cloves
Place the gammon (it is gammon until it is cooked, and then it becomes a ham!) in a large saucepan (you want it to fit snugly) over a high heat, and cover with cold water. Bring the gammon to the boil, and once the water is bubbling, remove it from the heat. Pour away the water, and rinse the gammon under the cold tap until all traces of the salty boiling water is washed away. A lot of recipes for ham you'll see say to soak it overnight. These are older recipes where the ham you purchased had more cure (salt) on it, but these days all you need is to boil the gammon for a few minutes to draw out enough salt to not totally ruin the flavour of the ham.
Return the gammon to the saucepan. Slice the onion in half (don't bother to peel it) and wedge it into the gaps either side of the gammon. Return the ham to the heat, adding the cocoa cola, and topping up the liquid so that the ham is just covered with more cold water. Once the liquid has come to the boil, turn the heat down to low, and allow the ham to simmer, covered, for around 2 hours. If your gammon is a different size, you need roughly an hour a kilo. Dry ham is not pleasant, and obviously while you're roasting it later you don't want undercooked pork, the only sure-fire way to make sure my ham is cooked properly with a meat thermometer.
At this point, if you want to glaze your ham the next day, remove it from the pan and let it cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate. Remember to let it come up to room temperature before roasting it. Otherwise, pre-heat the oven to 230 degrees (445 fahrenheit), allow your ham to cool enough to touch, then with a very sharp knife, trip off the rind and any excess fat. You want to leave a layer of fat that is just deep enough to score and embed cloves in, but not too thick to give you a fatty mouthful. This is my favourite part of the whole ham making exercise, for some reason! Score the fat into diamonds diagonally (look at the picture), and smother the fat with smoked chilli honey. Stud the cross points of the diamonds with cloves, and roast the ham for 15 to 20 minutes, checking it half way to baste with any run off honey or juices, or to add more honey to the ham if you think it needs it, until the fat is burnished and the glaze is dark and shiny. Either slice and serve the ham straight away, or allow it to cool before digging in.
What are your Christmas meat, fish or veggie traditions that don't involve a turkey? I'd love to hear some of them. Oh, and if you need some more festive Nigella recipes to persuade you to buy a copy of Feast or Nigella's Christmas, be sure to try this Cranberry Sauce with Cherry Brandy (another must for my festive table) or this New Years Day Trifle.