Thinking of trading turkey for an alternative festive centrepiece? Deliciously sweet and salty roast ham could be the showstopper you’re looking for.
A good roast ham is a real treat for Christmas, and it’s great for feeding a crowd, too. It’s super-easy to achieve a crispy, golden glaze and juicy, succulent meat. Plus, you’ll have awesome leftovers to use in the days that follow.
WHICH HAM TO BUY?
The first step to great roast ham is good buying. As always, we recommend going for higher-welfare meat – it really is the secret to making sure your ham is amazing. It’s a good idea to order from your butcher in advance, as large cuts are in demand around Christmas.
Pretty much any part of a pig can be cured to make ham, but the most common cuts you’ll find are the shoulder and leg. You can buy hams on or off the bone – smaller hams tend to be boned, while a ham with the bone still in will usually be bigger. Look for something with welfare credentials, ideally a named breed or from a small farm, and reared with access to the outdoors. This all adds up to a great-tasting ham.
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 times and sizes if your ham is bigger or smaller than ours.
Pork becomes ham by the process of ‘brining’, which means it’s submerged in salted water with other flavourings (like herbs and spices), 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 ham, 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!
Cover your ham with a beautifully shiny, sticky glaze. Towards the end of the roasting time, cover your meat in one of these three marinades and return to the oven, for something really special.
- MARMALADE GLAZE: Simply squeeze the juice of 1 orange into a bowl and mix well with 150 ml of golden rum and 3 tablespoons of quality bitter orange marmalade.
- 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.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH HAM?
Sweet and salty Christmas ham goes really well with buttery greens, tart cranberry sauce and lots of crispy roasties. Or, serve your sliced ham with a Christmas slaw of cabbage, apple and chopped nuts. When it comes to cold cuts on Boxing Day, go for a creamy parsley sauce with roasted leeks, for a classic flavour combo. We’ve got masses of side dish inspiration here – so take a look and choose your favourites to really celebrate the Christmas 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
- Place the ham 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 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 pig, you should have a nice layer of fat. Remove some of the fat as well, 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 3 tablespoons of black pepper.
- Place the ham in a roasting tray and roast for 20 minutes, or until the fat renders and becomes slightly crispy.
- Remove from the oven, stir the marmalade to loosen, then rub it all over the meat, and strip over the rosemary.
- Return 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 picnic.
Watch Jamie cook the perfect ham here:
Discover Jamie’s ultimate recipes for all the festive classics in Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Book, on sale now. And take a look at the Christmas hub for ideas for everything from cocktails, and edible gifts to special diet recipes and tasty leftovers.