Thinking of trading your turkey for an alternative centrepiece this Christmas? A sweet and succulent roast ham could be just the showstopper you’re looking for. With a bit of prep, this festive favourite is really easy to make at home and is perfect for feeding a crowd. And, for anyone scaling down celebrations this year, you’ll have incredible leftovers to enjoy for days.
Take a look at our guide to buying and cooking the ultimate Christmas ham, plus ideas for delicious seasonal sides and serving suggestions.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GAMMON AND HAM?
Pretty much any part of a pig can be cured to make ham, but the most common cuts are the shoulder and leg. In most supermarkets, you’ll find both gammon and ham. Gammon has been pre-cured in salt and requires cooking (similar to bacon), whereas ham has been dry-cured or cooked and is ready to eat. Once gammon is cooked, it is called ham.
HOW TO BUY THE BEST GAMMON?
In order to make your Christmas ham from scratch, you will need to get your hands on a gorgeous gammon joint. For the tastiest results, choose higher-welfare meat, if you can – look for welfare credentials like RSPCA Assured, ideally a named breed or that the meat comes from a small reputable farm, and is reared with access to the outdoors. It’s always a good idea to order from your butcher in advance, as these bigger cuts can be in high demand at this time of year.
The timings and measurements below are for a 3-4kg piece of meat, which will feed around 10 people. You might need to do a bit of measuring to make sure you’ve got a pot large enough to poach it in, which can also fit in your oven! Check out Jamie’s handy meat roasting guide for advice on times and sizes if your ham is bigger or smaller than ours.
PREPPING YOUR CHRISTMAS GAMMON
Pork becomes gammon by the process of ‘brining’, which means that it’s submerged in salted water, and left for a number of days or weeks. The salt penetrates the meat and acts as a preserver. This process also keeps the ham nice and pink when it’s cooked.
Before you cook a brined gammon, it’s a good idea to soak it in cold water overnight, to wash away some of the excess salt. Alternatively, pop it in a deep pot, cover with water, bring to the boil and poach it for half an hour or so. Remember, poaching liquor will be super-salty so don’t be tempted to use it for your gravy!
Now you’re ready to cook your ham!
ROASTED MARMALADE HAM
This sticky, sweet and salty ham is an absolute winner. Give it a whirl this Christmas, or at any other time of the year!
3-4 kg middle cut higher-welfare gammon, with knuckle left on
2 sticks of celery
2 fresh bay leaves
16 black peppercorns
1 bouquet garni (1 piece of leek, 1 stick of celery, 1 fresh bay leaf, 1 sprig of fresh thyme)
2 lemons or oranges
1 jar of quality thin-rind marmalade
½ a bunch of fresh rosemary (15g)
- Place the gammon in a large, snug-fitting pot.
- Roughly chop and throw in the carrots and celery, with the bay leaves, peppercorns and bouquet garni.
- Peel the zest from the lemons, then squeeze in the juice.
- Cover with water. Place the pot over a high heat, bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 1 hour 15 minutes with a lid on, skimming away any scum that rises to the surface, as and when needed.
- When the time’s up, remove from the heat and allow to cool for half an hour in the broth – this will allow the flavours to really penetrate the meat. Remove the veg and put the broth in a container for freezing.
- Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/gas 3. Carefully remove the meat to a board and, using a knife, take off the skin.
- Depending on the breed and quality of the meat, you should have a nice layer of fat. Remove some of the fat, to leave you with about 1cm. The extra fat can be kept in the freezer for roasting with potatoes another time.
- Score the fat left on the meat in a criss-cross fashion and, while it’s moist, season it generously with black pepper.
- Place the ham in a roasting tray and roast for 20 minutes, or until the fat renders and becomes slightly crispy.
- Remove the tray from the oven, stir the marmalade to loosen, then brush it all over the meat, and strip over the rosemary.
- Return the ham to the oven for about 1 hour and baste frequently until beautifully golden and crisp.
- Serve as you would a roast dinner or as part of a festive spread.
Watch Jamie cook the perfect ham here:
Our simple recipe uses marmalade and rosemary, but you don’t have to stop there. Try one of our alternative glazes for something a bit different. Towards the end of the roasting time, simply cover your ham with one of these three marinades and return to the oven for the remaining time.
- ORANGE & CRANBERRY GLAZE: Simply zest and squeeze the juice of 1 orange into a bowl and mix well with 3 tablespoons of quality cranberry sauce.
- TEA-INFUSED GLAZE: Infuse 1 Earl Grey tea bag in 250ml boiling water and stir in 2 tablespoons of soft brown sugar until it dissolves. Stud the ham with whole cloves and brush over the glaze.
- DRY SPICE MARINADE: In a bowl, combine 2 teaspoons each of ground allspice, ground nutmeg, ground ginger, ground cinnamon and ground cloves. Then add 2 tablespoons of runny honey and 100ml of golden rum. Give it a good mix and massage evenly onto your ham.
Or, for delicious results with minimum fuss, you can always buy a pre-cooked ham and add your own gorgeous glaze. Simply cover the meat in one of our glazes and roast in the oven until golden. Follow from step 7 in the recipe above, for guidance.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH HAM?
For the main event, sweet and salty ham goes really well with buttery greens, tart cranberry sauce and lots of crunchy roasties.
When it comes to Boxing Day leftovers, serve your sliced ham with a fresh and zingy winter slaw, a crispy, caramelised bubble & squeak, or keep things simple and serve with a hunk of bread and a dollop of mustard.
For more ideas for your lovely leftovers, check out these delicious recipes:
Discover more of Jamie’s festive recipes on our Christmas hub for ideas for everything from cocktails and edible gifts to special diet recipes and tasty leftovers.