First take your ham

One of the great pleasures of cooking is to use the most ‘natural’ as in ‘unprocessed’ ingredients you can find to create simple, good food that wastes as little as possible.  The majority of domestic cooks, including myself, are constrained by time.  As a result, we all compromise as to what we choose to make and what we buy ready-made. 

In the last year or so, I’ve become increasingly appalled by the quality of ready-sliced ham that I buy for my husband’s lunch roll.  The same label has replaced its lean, dry slices of ham with sweaty, fatty slices. 

Finally, I decided that enough was enough.  I was going to have to cook my own ham – or rather gammon.

The difference between ham and gammon: both are taken from the unfortunate pig’s hind legs, but ham is made by removing the leg from the carcass before salting, whereas gammon is made by leaving the leg attached to the carcass before it is salted.  Consequently, gammon is less salty than ham.  Traditionally, an uncooked ham needs to be soaked in several changes of cold water before being cooked to lessen its salt content.

Since pigs are naturally large creatures, one small gammon joint gave me far more ham than I could use in a week’s supply of sandwiches. It also created several litres of delicious ham stock.  Not being someone to waste good food, I realised I was going to have find lots of different recipes to use up both the stock and the ham.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll post up some of my recipes in this section, starting with the honey baked ham below and spicy black bean – also listed on the Lucky Dip side bar.

Cooking gammon and making the likes of black bean soup, does take time.  Anyone with a busy life is going to have to plan their cooking time carefully.  Yet, once you’ve tried such goodies, it’s hard to go back to industrially produced food.

Honey-baked ham

The cooking time will alter according to the weight of your gammon.  As a rough guide, allow 30 minutes per kilo, plus an extra 30 minutes in total cooking time.  Luckily honey-baked ham is very forgiving.

Serves 6

1.150kg free range, dry-cured smoked or unsmoked gammon joint

2 onions, halved

2 sticks celery, cut into a few pieces

2 large carrots, cut into a few pieces

4 sprigs parsley

1 bay leaf


Whole cloves for studding

2 tablespoons runny honey

2 tablespoons pale Muscovado sugar

1 tablespoon English mustard powder


1 Rinse the gammon under the cold tap and place in a large saucepan.  Cover completely with cold water.  Add the onions, celery, carrots, parsley and bay leaf.

2  Set over a high heat.  As the liquid heats, it will begin to throw up some scum.  Skim frequently until the mixture starts to boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.  Skim and leave to simmer uncovered for an hour.  Then remove the pan from the heat and leave the ham to cool in the broth for an hour or so.

Lift the gammon out of its broth and place on a plate.  Strain the broth into a containers. Mine gammon yielded around 3.7 litres stock.  Once it is tepid, cover and chill or freeze until needed for soup.

4  Heat the oven to fan assisted 180ºC/gas 5.  Using a small knife, peel away the tough skin of the gammon joint.  I usually remove the string as it no longer fits the size of the cooked joint.  Lightly score the fat in a diamond pattern.  Stud the diamond corners with cloves. 

5 Place a large sheet of baking paper in a shallow roasting tray – this saves on the washing up!  Place the gammon on the paper.  Mix together the honey, sugar and mustard powder.  Rub this all over the gammon. Bake in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes.  It is ready when the mixture has melted into a sticky glaze.

6 Honey-baked ham can be served hot, warm or cold.  It’s lovely eaten warm with butter-soaked jacket potatoes and Branston pickle or home-made piccalilli – there’s a lovely recipe in my new vegetable book.

For crusty rolls, use unsalted butter and season the finely sliced ham with Dijon mustard and gherkins.






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