December 6, 2013 4:55 pm

Tim Hayward’s ultimate Christmas ham

A festive classic for Boxing Day and beyond

Gammon can be bought either ‘green’ or smoked. You can also buy it on or off the bone. There are dozens of recipe variations for the crust, which really needs enough sugar to ensure a toffee-like glaze, and whichever aromatics you favour. I’ve gone with a simple mix of honey and English mustard. It would be traditional to add a light studding of cloves though I can’t really bear them - they make a lovely piece of pork taste like licking a Christmas air freshener. You can also add a teaspoon of cornflour to the glaze, which, though it initially looks a little unappetizing, actually cooks out completely, thickens the glaze and helps it adhere during cooking.

Baked ham

Serves 4-6

1 large gammon joint (Size is dependent on your cut but this recipe works well for about 2kg of actual meat. I’ve used the knuckle end of the leg, on the bone in the video above, but explain to your butcher what you’re up to and he will be able to advise on other cuts.)

1 onion

1 leek

1 stick celery

1 carrot

5g black peppercorns

5g mustard seeds

5g juniper berries

1 sprig fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

50g English mustard powder

100g honey

Brining (optional)

Gammon is pork that has been cured in brine so it’s the the easiest way to start a baked ham, but if you feel like going the whole DIY route it’s simple to do your own.

From your friendly local pound shop, pick up one of those large plastic boxes with a lid that’s usually used for storing stuff under the bed. Choose one that will fit into your fridge.

Your butcher wil be able to recommend a good cut of pork for brining. I used the knuckle end of the leg with the bone left in, which makes a ham that looks attractive on the plate. A boned, rolled and tied piece is much easier to slice.

Put the pork in the box and top up with cold water to cover. Use a measuring jug to transfer the water to a large pan while roughly measuring the quantity. The cure is made with about 200g of salt and 100g of sugar per litre of water. Buy the cheapest salt you can that doesn’t contain any anti-caking agents or other additives. It’s not necessary, though, to splash out on the really expensive stuff. You can use any sugar or even treacle but dark kinds such as Muscovado add a lovely smokey flavour.

Bring the brine to the boil then allow it to cool completely before pouring it back over the pork. Use a small plate as a weight to keep the ham submerged and leave it for up to 10 days, occasionally turning it over.

Keep the whole arrangement in the fridge and keep an eye on it. If the brine goes cloudy, it’s worth draining it off, bringing it to the boil and then cooling it off again before pouring back over the meat.

The baking

1. Put the gammon joint into a large saucepan, cover with cold water and add the onion, leek, celery, carrot, peppercorns, mustard seeds, juniper berries, thyme and bay leaves. You can vary these aromatics to suit your own taste.

2. After 4 hours of simmering, remove the meat and allow it to cool. The stock makes great soup.

3. Preheat the oven to 200C. Carefully remove the rind from the ham. It should come away easily, but be ready to help it along with a sharp knife.

4. Cut a criss-cross pattern into the fat, trying to avoid going through to the meat.

5. Mix the mustard powder with the honey and let down to a thick paste with some hot water if necessary.

6. Paint the treacly mess on to the ham, working it well into the cuts on the surface. Foil-line your oven dish if you don’t want it glued up with epoxy-strength toffee, then bang the whole lot into the oven for half an hour, basting occasionally. Watch for burning.

7. Allow to cool before slicing and serve warm, perhaps with some buttered and mashed sweet potatoes and steamed kale, or cold with a chunky slice of bread and some homemade piccalilli (see recipe below).

This should serve six people, though that won’t leave enough of the essential sandwich leftovers. Let’s say four instead, and be sure you have some good mustard in the fridge and a fresh white loaf for the following day.

Piccalilli

No one’s really sure where piccalilli came from – there are various half-baked stabs at histories involving colonial India or even the Pennsylvania Dutch, but, to most of us, it’s as British as it’s possible to be. Redolent of popping gas-fires, knitted balaclavas and dried-out seed cake, if piccalilli could pull the nation through rationing, post-war depression, damp fogs and the Festival of Britain, it might even work for three days of Christmas leftovers.

1 cauliflower (about 500g)

2 white onions

1 small vegetable marrow (or a large courgette)

100g French beans

100g salt

1 litre distilled malt vinegar

5g mustard seed

200g sugar

2 cloves of garlic

1 large ‘thumb’ of fresh ginger

50g plain flour

5g English mustard powder

10g ground turmeric

1. Separate the cauli into small florets, chop the onions coarsely and cut the marrow into 1cm dice.

2. Put the cauli and onions into one bowl and the marrow and French beans into another. Add 50g of salt to each, mix thoroughly and allow to stand overnight.

3. In the morning, drain off any liquid, rinse the vegetables quickly to remove any excess salt and pat dry with a cloth.

4. Bring 750g of the vinegar to a simmer. Add the cauliflower, onions and mustard seed and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Add the remaining vegetables and the sugar and simmer for a further 3 minutes. Grate the garlic and ginger into the mixture.

5. Drain the vegetables through a sieve, saving the hot vinegar. Try to avoid getting your head in the vinegar steam – it’s not dangerous but it will certainly make your eyes water.

6. Working quickly – the vegetables are continuing to cook in their own heat and we don’t want them to go soggy – combine the flour, mustard powder and turmeric in a pan and work up to a thin cream with the last 250g of vinegar.

7. Bring to the boil, then whisk in the reserved hot vinegar. The mixture should thicken, a bit like custard or Béchamel. Simmer for 10 minutes to cook out any floury taste.

8. Put the vegetables into a bowl and pour over the sauce. Mix gently and spoon into sterilized preserving jars.

9. Store in the fridge to allow the flavours to develop.

Tim Hayward’s latest book is ‘Food DIY’, published by Fig Tree

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2014. You may share using our article tools.
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.

LIFE AND ARTS ON TWITTER

More FT Twitter accounts
SHARE THIS QUOTE