The holiday season is upon us again. And it is always at this time of year that the chef in me comes out. I spent my early professional years in kitchens, and learned from some of the best chefs on the eastern seaboard. Each and every one had their own flair when it came to the holidays. They all had their own touch to every dish that made it unique and spectacular. And those lessons weren’t lost on me.
One of may favorite Holiday dishes has always been ham. You know, the big old, bone in, smoked Virginia ham. My mouth waters just writing about it. I recall in my youth the smell of that salty slab of meat roasting in the oven, for what seemed like forever, and myself and my siblings constantly bugging my mother or grandmother as to when exactly it would be done. The aroma filling the house made our bellies rumble with greedy anticipation. The children weren’t alone in this either…my father and grandfather would constantly open the oven and drink deep of the heady redolence that would radiate from the heated cavern that was the oven. For days following we would have ham sandwiches, ham salad, ham and eggs, we had ham until the bone was clean. And Grandma would even use that picked clean bone to make a stock for soup. That may explain my fondness for the huge hunks of ham that I always eat (way too much of) this time of year.
With that in mind, here I present two recipes from my personal kitchen grimoire. The pages are slick stained with grease and smells vaguely of cinnamon but I am fairly certain I can make it out and transcribe the alchemy of it here for you.
Big Jim’s Easy Slow Cooker Ham
This recipe has become, hands-down, my favorite ham and makes the entire house smell amazing!
There is nothing like coming home with this ham cooking! Experiment with the amounts of seasonings to your liking. I prefer more nutmeg but some prefer less nutmeg and more maple syrup!
You will need the following…
• 1 (1.3kg) middle cut gammon joint
• 30 whole cloves
• 750ml cloudy apple juice, or as needed
• 200g dark brown soft sugar
• 225ml maple syrup
• 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
• 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
• 2 teaspoons ground ginger
• 2 tablespoons ground cloves
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (optional)
• 1 orange peel
• Press whole cloves into the ham so they are evenly distributed. You may score the ham for easier insertion if you wish. Place the ham in a slow cooker. Pour in apple juice until only about 5cm of ham is above the surface (you may not use all 750ml). Pack the brown sugar on top of the ham, pressing into the cloves. This will get washed away in the next step but any that stays on is a bonus.
• Pour the maple syrup over the ham. Season the apple juice with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, ground cloves and vanilla. Add the orange peel to the pot. Fill the slow cooker as full as you can with additional apple juice without going over the fill line. Cover and set to Low. Cook for 8 to 10 hours.
The Glazed Ham of Valhalla
• 1 whole leg of ham on the bone
• 2 (500ml) bottles dry cider
• 8 whole peppercorns
• 1 bay leaf
• 175g (6 oz) light brown soft sugar
• 3 tablespoons mustard powder
• whole cloves for studding ham
1. Place ham in a large stockpot and cover with cider. Leave in a cold place to soak overnight.
2. Heat the stockpot over medium high heat. Add the peppercorns and bay leaf and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes per 450g (1 lb). Remove from heat.
3. Preheat oven to 220 C / Gas mark 7. In a small bowl, mix the sugar and mustard.
4. Remove the leg from the stockpot, carefully peel off the skin and score diamond shapes into the fat with a sharp knife. Stand the ham in a roasting tin with a small amount of the cider to cover the bottom of the tin. Spread the sugar and mustard mixture over the fat on the ham. Press a clove into the corner of each diamond shape.
5. Roast the ham in preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes until the fat is crisp and golden. Remove and allow to cool before carving