Every year I cook a Christmas ham. I don’t care what the foodies say, I’m always amazed what you can do (with a bit of preparation and a decent recipe) to improve a bog-standard supermarket gammon. This year I’ve bought an unsmoked boneless gammon from our local Waitrose, (£15.67), but in previous years I used a cheaper gammon from Sainsbury’s and can truthfully, hand on heart, say it lived up to expectations- and this is coming from somebody who was raised on expensive York Ham from Paxton & Whitfield.
I use a recipe from Sarah Raven’s excellent “Complete Christmas”. The ham is basted with cider towards the end of cooking, which gives it that added je ne sais. By the way, the original recipe is for a largish 4.5 kg bone gammon but normally I use a smaller one.
First, you take a 4.5 kg boned gammon and soak it in cold water overnight. I’m wondering if it might benefit from a longer soaking? Presumably the water helps to wash out salt, any nasty impurities and keeps the ham moist during cooking?
Remove the ham from the water and wrap it up, with a bayleaf or two, in a loose but sealed parcel of aluminium foil. Preheat the oven to 170 °C and place the ham in a large roasting tin with a little water in the bottom. How long to cook it for? Now that’s a good question. Here’s the mathematical formula, which I have to admit to working out on paper with the help of a calculator. Sad, but true. For every 450g of weight, roast it for 30 minutes. My gammon happens to weigh 2.766 kilos, which means, I think, that I would have to roast it for ? Answers on a postcard please.
Twenty minutes before the end of the cooking time take the ham out of the oven and put it to one side. Increase the oven temperature to 200 °C. Remove the foil from the gammon and with a very sharp knife strip off the rind, leaving an even layer of white fat on the joint. You will improve on this with practice: the first time I attempted it, I managed to remove half the fat, leaving a very patchy layer. But with any luck, your rind should come off pretty easily. Score the fat to make a ‘criss-cross’, diamond shaped pattern.
Mix up four tablespoons of Dijon mustard with 4 tablespoons of soft brown demerara sugar and spread it over the fat with a palatte knife. Push a clove in the middle of each diamond shape, and return the gammon to the roasting tin. Pour over 200ml cider, and put the ham back into the oven for about twenty minutes. Now and again, take the ham out and baste it with the mingled cider juices, until caramelised. The first year I made it, caramelisation didn’t happen- but it was still delicious. Last year, I managed to get a properly glazed finish.
Utterly divine. If I’ve got time, I’m going to be starting mine tomorrow. Perfect for Boxing Day, especially if eaten with my Indian Apple Chutney. I can live off this for weeks.