We explain the difference between gammon and ham, how to prepare and cook them, plus share some great serving suggestions.
To some, snaffling a cold cut of ham from the fridge is one of the high points of the festive season - even a simply boiled joint is majestic in its hefty pink stature. Once glazed and studded in decorative cloves you have a real feast on your hands. And the best bit is that it just keeps on giving – even a small ham joint will keep a household in sandwiches for up to five days.
A gammon isn’t just for Christmas, either – it’s good investment all year round, from picnic season, to birthday parties and New Year’s Eve. Glaze it and watch the masses flock…
We’ve picked our favourite ways to serve ham, but first our food editor Caroline Hire explains a few things:
“Simply put, gammon is raw and ham is ready-to-eat. Gammon has been cured in the same way as bacon whereas ham has been dry-cured or cooked. Once you've cooked your gammon, you can call it ham.
“To make your Christmas ‘ham’ you’ll need to buy a gammon – choose, smoked or unsmoked, on or off the bone according to your recipe and preference.”
How to prepare a gammon joint
“Soaking the gammon in water to remove saltiness is generally a thing of the past but check with your butcher or look at pack instructions to be sure.
"To start, weigh your meat to calculate cooking times. Put the meat in a large pan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil, adding any flavourings you may wish eg cinnamon, bay, peppercorns, coriander seeds and onion. Cook for 30 mins per 450g/1lb, periodically skimming and discarding any white froth that comes to the surface.
"Drain, reserving the stock if you like, leave to cool a little. Remove the top layer of skin, leaving a thin layer of fat around the meat. Score the fat, then brush with the glaze of your choice – a mixture of maple syrup and coarse-grain mustard is good. You can stud the fat with cloves too. Place in a foil-lined roasting tin and bake at 220C/fan 200C for 20-30 mins (based on a 5kg ham) or until the glaze is golden."
Our favourite ways to cook gammon and ham:
Our 2013 Christmas ham recipe uses sweet and sticky quince paste, or ‘membrillo’. It also uses the time-honoured method of studding your joint with cloves. It’s simple enough – score the skin with a diamond pattern then pierce the centre of each diamond with a clove.
Bypass the pre-boiling stage and use an all-in-one slow cooking method. This tropical-tinged gammon recipe uses treacle, pineapple juice and allspice, slowly cooked in the oven for four hours until butter soft.
Cook your gammon in a couple of litres of cola to really ramp up the stickiness. Once you’ve boiled the joint in its soda bath, drain and transfer into a roasting tin and glaze with a maple mustard mix.
Our favourite ways to serve gammon and ham:
Who would turn their nose up at a traditional plate of ham, egg and chips? It’s ideal for the post-Christmas period when everyone’s a little gravied-out, and makes a great simple supper all year round. Cut a thin steak-sized slice from your ham joint and griddle it for three minutes on each side.
This one is perfect for when you have a chunk of ham left over. Shred it into stringy strips then pour over clarified butter. The set yellow top layer is a traditional preserving seal for meat and fish.
Pea and ham is one of the greatest soup combinations. Our bright green version adds the shredded ham as a garnish to finish. To get a really rich flavour, retain any cooking liquor from homemade ham and use it as a stock.
This sensational chunky pie utilises festive leftovers in fine fashion. Combine your ham with cranberries, pistachios and warm Christmas flavours like nutmeg, mace and sage. It requires homemade hot water crust pastry, so it’s one for a long kitchen session.
Try something more low-key and use homemade ham to top tortilla chips. Add some tomato salsa and cheese, bake, then add guacamole, soured cream and jalapeños. Find a comfy spot on the sofa and relax.
Whisks at the ready. Give your omelette the soufflé effect to add a touch of refinement to a brunch table. But not too much – this version with leftover ham is best served with baked beans.
Try one of our other Christmas ham recipes.
Are you partial to a homemade ham? Share your recipe with us below...