I love cooking and eating foods from all over the world but I also get really excited to cook traditional British food. I’m not a terribly nostalgic person but I believe food heritage is very important as there are skills and appreciation handed down through British cookery that we can benefit from today. When there was less volume and variety of food we had a greater appreciation for the ingredients that graced our tables and made sure it stretched as far as possible. When I set about preparing the Christmas Gammon I feel the connection of tradition and appreciate how far this piece of meat will go in feeding my family and friends over the festive season.
It’s actually very simple to prepare and cook a Christmas Gammon and you can have a lot of fun with the flavours. I tend to immerse this glorious joint of meat in predominantly British flavours and the results is a sweet, salty, tangy triumph. I serve it hot with roasted vegetables when it comes out of the oven then use the cold leftovers for the rest of the holidays in sandwiches, sliced with egg and chips and diced into an alfredo sauce with fusilli. It’s such a versatile meat to have on hand over Christmas.
2.5kg unsmoked gammon joint (bone in or out)
1 litre English cider (or cloudy apple juice if alcohol isn’t your thing)
3 medium brown onions
3 bay leaves
1tsp black peppercorns
FOR THE GLAZE
80g golden syrup
1 tbsp prepared English mustard
1tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp allspice
You need a stock pot or big Dutch oven for this recipe. You could also use your slow cooker.
Fun Fact: A salted joint of pork leg becomes a gammon joint. A cooked gammon joint becomes a ham.
- Place the gammon joint skin side down in a large stock pot (you need to be able to completely cover the meat in liquid).
- Pour over the cider then top up with water until the meat is covered (probably another 3-4 litres)
- Cut the onions in half then add to the pot along with the bay leaves and peppercorns.
- Put the pot on a medium high heat (not the highest heat setting) and bring the water gradually to a boil. This takes about 30-35 minutes. Not heating it too quickly keeps the poaching liquor clearer and the meat tender.
- Once the liquid has come to the boil skim off any brown foam then turn the heat down to low, put the lid on and cook for 2 hours. You’ll notice the liquid level has already gone down. This is OK. No need to turn the meat.
- Pre-heat the oven to 230°c (210°c Fan). Place a rack in the middle of the oven (you want the top of the meat to be about 10 cm from the top of the oven when it’s in the roasting tin.
- Remove the boiled meat from the pan (don’t throw the liquor away just yet) and place on a foil lined roasting dish.
- Mix together the ingredients for the glaze.
- Remove the skin from the gammon leaving a good layer of fat underneath. You can do this easily with a spoon and tongs as the skin is sticky and soft so can be pulled away.
- If your gammon was on the bone it will probably have fallen away from the meat during cooking. You can gently pull it out if it hasn’t already come away. It makes carving easier later.
- The fat adds flavour to the final dish and helps the glaze adhere. Using a sharp knife score a diamond crisscross pattern in the fat.
- Pour 400ml of the poaching liquor into the bottom of the roasting dish then pour the glaze over the fat. Spoon the glaze and liquor mixture over the sides of the meat.
- Place a clove in each diamond, this is partly for flavour, partly for decoration and partly for tradition, then put the meat into the scorchingly hot oven for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes carefully baste the meat without removing from the oven then cook for another 15 minutes.
- Remove the meat to a serving platter and drain the juices into a jug to pour over the carved meat. The sweet, salty sauce is incredible!