Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Baked ham

I started baking my own hams last year, fed up with searching for proper ham slices in preference to supermarket plastic ones (which are basically reconstituted and shaped scraps) and paying a premium for the privilege. I'd always shied away from it, thinking it would be really difficult but it's surprisingly easy - the only thing you need is time, so a weekend afternoon is ideal for this sort of pottering in the kitchen.

The best thing about a homemade ham is that you not only get to eat some of it hot for supper, but after it's cooled you've got lovely meat for sandwiches or for adding to dishes that call for ham as an ingredient (such as pea and ham soup or a pie).  
What you need: 
A piece of uncooked gammon, rind on, about 750g
1 onion
Bay leaf
Poaching liquid, about 2 litres

For the glaze:
Dark sugar
Grain mustard
English mustard powder

What to do: 
Put the gammon in a pan and cover with the poaching liquid. Add a bay leaf and a whole onion studded with cloves. Bring to the boil, then pop a lid on the pan, turn the heat down and let it simmer for about 90 minutes. Top up the liquid if you need to, to keep the meat covered.

While it's cooking make a glaze for the top. In a bowl mix together a heaped teaspoon of mustard powder and a dessert spoonful each of grain mustard, sugar and marmalade. It should make a thick paste.

Lift the meat out of the pan with a couple of forks and put it in a roasting tin. Using a sharp knife, carefully slice off the rind leaving as much of the fat on as possible. Spread the glaze over the fat and bake for 30-40 minutes at 200C.

Hot from the oven with braised kale and grilled tomato
Cook's tips:
When choosing a piece of gammon, make sure it has a decent amount of fat under the rind as it helps to keep the ham moist while cooking and it adds flavour. You can cut it off on the plate if you don't want to eat it. I usually buy unsmoked but that's just my preference as I like to inject my own flavourings.

For poaching you can just use plain water - it will produce fantastic stock, particularly if you plan to make a soup afterwards. However, as gammon is salted using some other type of liquid will help balance the flavours. Nigella Lawson has a famous recipe for cooking it in coca cola to add sweetness. Cider and apple juice are popular choices and I've done a couple in a fiery ginger beer to bring a little heat to the meat (and adding a little ground ginger to the glaze).

I've added star anise to the poaching liquid, also sprigs of thyme and even a cinnamon stick (not all at once). I like the toffee flavours dark muscovado sugar brings to the glaze, but I also use a dark demarara sometimes. I've also experimented with marmalades, trying both lime and ginger as well as traditional orange.

A piece of gammon weighing around 750g will give you a hot meal and enough cold for another 4-5 portions depending how you use it. Cover it lightly with foil as it cools to stop it drying out, then store it in the fridge covered in cling film.