A very good ham recipe

I cannot at all claim this recipe as my own. It comes from the wonderful book “Food in England” written in the 1950’s by Dorothy Hartley. If you are at all interested in the history of food or enjoy traditional recipes then I urge you to get this book. It is one that you will want to read whilst tucked up in bed on a winter’s night. It has many fantastic recipes and is packed full of historical facts and inspiration.

We had a party in the garden over the bank holiday weekend.  The August Bank Holiday marks the end of the British summer and as we have had a very disappointing summer this year, we thought “Hey, why not invite friends round to sit in our garden, drink , eat and be merry”.  Of course, this thought occurred to us when we were enjoying one of the rare warm days of early August. We had all our toes and fingers crossed for good weather, the Countryfile weather forecast said gales and torrential rain. But, the crossing of digits must have worked as Sunday was one of those rare fine, warm days, and, shockingly, Countryfile got it wrong.

Whenever we have friends round for a big bash I always cook ham. They must be well and truly fed up with seeing it. I usually make is to this recipe, but Dorothy had inspired me. She describes it thus, Even a “plain salted” ham comes up wonderfully in this bath, and for a rich home-cured it is the apotheosis. Who could resist?

I fiddled about with  her advice a little bit because I used what I had available in the garden. Which is, I think, what Dorothy would want. I also reduced the amount of black treacle from her advised 1lb to 3-4 tablespoons as I didn’t want the treacle to overpower with its sweetness.

You will need to ask the butcher how long your ham will need to soak for. I tend to soak my ham in cold water (enough to cover it) for at least 12 hours, changing the water twice.

This ham should be cooked the day before you need it so that it can cool in the cooking liquid overnight. So you will need to buy your ham three days before you want to serve it to allow for soaking, cooking and cooling.

You will need to find a pan that is large enough to easily take your ham with some room at the top.

You can do this recipe with any size ham. Bring the joint slowly to the boil, reduce to a simmer and use the following times as a guide:
900g – 1.5kg  simmer for 1 ½  to 2 hours
1.75kg – 2.5kg  for 2 to 2½ hours
2.75 -3kg for 2½ to 3 hours
3.5kg -4kg for 3½ to 4 hours
4.5kg – 5kg for 4½ to 5 hours
5.5kg to 6kg for 5 to 5½ hours
6.5kg – 6.75kg for 5½ to 6 hours
7kg for 6 hours

The ham will be ready when a skewer will easily go all the way through and the juices are running clear.

I made this recipe with a ham that weighed about 6kg.

Chop up an onion or two (including the skins, as Dorothy advises that they add a golden colour to the ham) and any vegetables that you may be using. I used an onion, carrot tops, a couple of carrots, three or four large parsnip leaves and two apples chopped roughly (with peel and core). Place these in the base of the pan.  Add whatever herbs and spices appeal to you. I added a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, marjoram (oregano), sage and dill. I also added 3 cloves, 4 juniper berries, 1 teaspoon of szechuan peppercorns, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns (feel free to use whatever herbs and spices you prefer or have to hand). Pour in a can of cider (500ml), add 4 tablespoons of soft brown sugar and 4 tablespoons of black treacle. Place ham on top of the vegetables and add enough cold water to cover the ham. Cover with the pan lid or tented foil (try to avoid the foil touching the ham as the salt will eat through the foil).

Bring slowly to the boil and then reduce to a simmer and simmer for the time sufficient to cook you ham, based on the times above. If you are cooking on an Aga then place the pan into the simmering oven after bringing to the boil. Remove from the  heat and allow the ham to cool in the cooking liquid. This will keep the ham really moist and make sure that all the flavours permeate the meat. I left mine to cool overnight.

Take the ham out of the cooking liquid and cut off the rind, leaving behind plenty of fat if you can. Score the fat and cover with an equal mixture of dry mustard powder and demerara sugar, patting it well to make it stick. Place in a baking tray and bake in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or in the baking oven of the Aga for 20-30 minutes until the crust is golden and the ham is hot. Serve it hot, with lashings of parsley sauce (bechamel sauce with lots of fresh parsley added) or leave to cool to room temperature.

This joint was plenty for friends to enjoy and we have been enjoying sandwiches and I made a fidget pie. I will be making ham this way again.  Thank you Dorothy.



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