Christmas without ham is Christmas without The Two Ronnies, Kermit without Miss Piggy, it just isn’t Christmas!
Oh, the happy memories of sneaking into the larder to saw away at the sugary glaze only to then witness an exasperated and furious mother given marmite is not the best disguise for patching up such thievery. A ham out of reach on the highest shelf, however, would still see the use of a step ladder.
Next to the goose all confused in bread sauce, Cumberland sauce and gravy or as a continuous lure for phantom hunger and the ham is a yuletide and well-visited foundation stone… even a vegan one, I guess.
I like my ham cold for Christmas lunch and so by getting it ready one or even two days before can take a lot of stress out of Christmas.
I so often see people pouring syrupy glazes on hot hams that have not been allowed to cool off first. A lot of basting, a lot of opening and closing the oven door, puffing and panting…a lot of stress.
Your ham must be allowed to completely cool before stage two, Glazing.
- When glazing use a liner in the bottom of the tray as caramelized or burnt sugars can be a real pain to get off.
- Make sure rind is removed before basting.
- By adding a ‘powder layer’ of English mustard, ground coriander and then the granular sugar it allows more gooey additions of honey or molasses a proper chance to settle and stick instead of running off.
- If your ham is only glazing well in places due to a steep run off, then I use scrunched up tin foil to prop it in position if any turning is needed.
How to Cook a Ham
Here we go, but before I do, there are two ways to cook a green or cold smoked ham: Oven or Poach. I’m going for the latter as it gives you a delicious and plentiful stock that can be a real addition for either the Christmas gravy or the days of cooking afterwards.
Tips for cooking a 2.5 kg ham
2 bay leaves
- Ham Glaze
1 generous tablespoon of English mustard powder
½ tablespoon of ground coriander
1 tsp of ground black pepper
1 tsp of fine sea sal
40g soft brown sugar
6 tablespoons of dark runny clear honey
- Lower your ham into a large pot of cold water. It should always be submerged!
- Place four sticks of celery, one leek, 2 bay leaves and 8 peppercorns around it. Your water will need no salt. Poach at barely even a simmer, more a gentle wobble with a lid on, topping up with boiling water if needs be.
NOTE: Using a lid is good but remember that once on, the temperature can go from a simmer to a boil unrecognised and all too easily, so check.
- Do not cook by timing as one woman’s oven is another man’s incinerator. Purchase a probe as meat thermometers are incredibly useful in their accuracy. You want the temperature to reach 66°C before taking out of the water. This will take approximately 70-90 minutes. Once taken out and the ham will still be cooking as the internal centre temperature of the meat will still be rising. The perfect ‘end’ temperature will be about 70-72°C
- Allow your ham to cool completely.
- Cut the rind from the ham but carefully, so as to ensure as much fat is left on top as possible.
- Score about half a centimetre deep through the fat with a sharp knife making a diamond criss-cross to about the size of a postage stamp (so to speak). Plug a clove in the middle of each square.
- Turn the grill to high but making sure the shelf is not too close to the element.
- Line the baking tray with foil as paper will burn and rest the ham on top, fat side facing up.
- Mix the mustard powder, ground coriander, salt, and pepper.
- Making sure it lands on the fat, not the work surface, dust the ham well and thoroughly. Pat the mixture down only very gently.
- Next sprinkle the sugar evenly over the top.
- Trail 4 tablespoons of the honey over the top and immediately sit it under the grill.
- After about 6 minutes (with the door fractionally open) give it another spoonful of honey. The sugars should be bubbling and browning well.
- Use scrunched up tin foil to prop up any less done parts that need to sit up under the grill.
- You still have one more spoonful of honey in reserve.
- When browned remove.
WARNING: Burn or over brown and you will create a sugar armour on the ham that will make slicing difficult.
- Your ham is ready for slicing.
Leftover Ham? Here are a few post-Christmas suggestions
- Use the stock for soups, my two favourites being split pea soup and chestnut soup.
- A warming dish of Boston beans is the perfect place for both smoked or unsmoked leftovers.
- Adding gelatine to the stock with capers parsley, sauteed onion and chopped ham will give you a wonderful Jambon Persillade to eat with mustard, gherkins and good bread. So too a ham stock and sherry aspic are wonderful with a poached egg, tarragon leaves and diced ham suspended in a glass (if not a little outdated it’s still damn good!).
- Ham stock with whisky makes for a fine meat tea outside on a winter walk.
- Stock is undoubtably good in a white sauce with leeks and the chopped-up meats under a golden pie casing.
- Chopped up with goose or turkey and added into a creamy rice and peas is the perfect boxing day telly food.
- Shred the meat finely and mix into a fried breakfast hash to then crown with fried eggs.
- Using the stock, small cubes of meat and cheese leftovers can provide excellent Croquettas with cold sherry.
- Sliced and eaten in a straight up or toasted cheese and pickled walnut sandwich is a winner as is using it for the bottom layer of a strong and properly made Buck rarebit.
- With vinaigrette, lentils and fresh herbs the meat is wonderful in a perhaps more cleansing salad.
- The possibilities are endless, but I hope to have jogged your memory in some small way. Merry Christmas All!