5 January 2011

Making the Christmas Ham

Well now.  It's been a few weeks since I've had time to put fingers to keyboard, which is entirely down to that thing called "Christmas" intervening.  I've sat down this morning and made a list of what I want to tell you all about - and it's come down to twelve individual things!  Now normally, I'd deal with them in chronological order.  This time, however, I can go no further without recounting the sheer triumph that was our Christmas Ham.

As you do, we'd been contemplating what to have for our Christmas Dinner since way before the date and had both been in agreement that Turkey was so yesterday, Chicken was for Christmasses of yore when money was tighter than today.  Goose & Duck were both a temptation, but the worry was that it wouldn't go as far as I needed it to.  Beef was extremely tempting, but too expensive for the size I wanted.  So, we came down on a Christmas Ham (with a piece of Beef to add variety to Boxing Day).

That's a big old piece of pig!
We had been eyeing up the enormous legs of pork in the supermarkets and although we knew we should be buying from the local butcher, I'm afraid the supermarket won on price.  If it's any consolation, we did buy the Beef from the local butcher!  We got a 5kg bone-in (although it turned out to be the tiniest bone) half leg.  Top half - the thigh, effectively.

With kettle added, for size comparison
The next quandary was what to soak it and cook it in.  None of our saucepans were even remotely big enough, and neither was my Mum's pressure cooker.  Then Chillibob remembered the Jam Boiler that our friend Laura had given to us and which had been residing in the shed ever since, awaiting a suitable glut of fruit.

Now that's a BIG jam boiler!
It seemed as though this enormous piece of pork qualified as a glut of pork - so we got the boiler out and gave it a scrub, boiled up some water in it (which took 30 minutes, even starting with hot water!), let it cool and plonked Mr Pig inside.  Perfect!

It took 8 or 9 litres of water to cover it for soaking, which made us glad we'd bought that extra 2 litre bottle of coca-cola, as that was what we'd be cooking it in, the next day.  I added three satsumas, which I'd pulverised the juice out of, some star anise, peppercorns, coriander seeds, cloves, a chilli (which I'd punched holes in, to allow it to steep) and some garlic and left it to swim around for the night.

The following day, I baled out enough of the liquid so that I could remove the pork to drain the boiler.  It was just too heavy to lift, otherwise.  The water had gained an "interesting" hue and it all smelled satisfyingly Christmassy.

Ready to be cooked - in coca-cola, plus some!
Having rinsed the boiler out and placed it (gently - it's a ceramic hob) onto the cooker top, I then went about replacing Mr Pig and setting him to swim in a bath of six litres of coca-cola, topped up with a little water.  To the coca-cola, I added everything but the kitchen sink, which is roughly translated as carrot, onion, celery, cloves, coriander seeds, peppercorns, parsley - all the usual suspects.

I then set it to boil.  Three-quarters of an hour later, it had achieved a gentle bubble.  An hour and a quarter later, I turned the heat down to a gentle simmer - and left it whilst I researched how long to cook the beast.  There seemed to be two schools of thought on this subject - around two and a half hours -v- four to five hours.  So I compromised and looked at it once it'd achieved three hours - and it appeared done.

All studded and ready to be baked
Chillibob had to be press-ganged into fishing Mr Pig - who shall henceforth be known as "Mr Ham" - from the enormous vat, where he had (Mr Ham, that is, not Chillibob) achieved a major suntan and had changed from the translucent Pork appearance to the lovely juicy pink appearance of Ham.  He also smelled extremely interesting!

Having allowed the Ham to cool briefly, I took the rubbery rind off of its back and got busy with the clove-studding.  I'd have left a bit more of the fat on, but knowing how fat-phobic my two chaps are, thought it best to carve as close to the meat as possible.  It worked out fine, but doesn't look as pretty as it would have done otherwise.

The next problem was finding room for it in our already bulging fridge, but with some help from the snow outside bringing the temperatures down we were able to decant the drinks and vegetables to the shed, which helped.  So, that just left the marmalade glaze to put on it tomorrow, before baking.

As a two-day enterprise, it was all going rather swimmingly.

Now how nice does THAT look?  Still pink inside and juicy, too.
Following its marmalade glaze, baking, basting, more baking and a final flourish with a blowtorch (because it was a Christmas present and I could, right?), the Christmas Ham was done.

That 5kg piece of meat has, so far, done three of us for Christmas Day, four of us for Boxing Day, countless sandwiches and cold meat suppers, a risotto, a soup and I've still got 400g of it in the freezer awaiting a potato & cheese bake.  It may have taken three days in total, but boy, was it worth it.

Happy Christmas!

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