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. There’s a reason this cola ham with maple glaze is one of our most popular recipes at Christmas time.
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 chef Caroline Hire explains a few things:
What’s the difference between ham and gammon?
“Both gammon and ham are cuts from the hind legs of a pig. Gammon is sold raw and ham is sold ready-to-eat,” says Caroline. “Gammon has been cured in the same way as bacon whereas ham has been dry-cured or cooked. Once you’ve cooked your gammon, it is then called 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. You’ll need to cook for 20 mins per 450g/1lb plus 20 mins.
- 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.
- Boil for half the calculated cooking time, 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.
- Place in a foil-lined roasting tin, cover with foil and bake for the remaining cooking time at 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Twenty to thirty minutes before the end of cooking time, brush with the glaze of your choice – a mixture of maple syrup and coarse-grain mustard is good. Cook uncovered until the glaze is golden.Try Caroline’s ham recipe.
See this video guide for advice on how to glaze and roast a ham:
Our favourite ways to cook gammon and ham:
Use membrillo for sweet spice
This 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.
Slow cook for texture
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.
Try a sticky cola glaze
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.
Use seasonal fruit
The secret to this picture-perfect ham is slow-roasting it in a foil parcel in a spiced apple juice bath. The steamy environment allows the flavours to mingle in a dreamy milieu. The whole thing is finished off with a maple glaze, whole baked apples and golden (yes, golden) star anise.
Our favourite ways to serve gammon and ham:
Classic pub grub
Who would turn their nose up at a traditional plate of gammon and mash? It’s ideal for the post-Christmas period when everyone’s a little gravied-out, and makes a great simple supper all year round. The salty ham is paired perfectly with sweet apple and a punchy celeriac mash.
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.
Add to soup
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.
Warming winter pies
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.
Soft soufflé omelette
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.