It’s possible to lose the plot a little in the kitchen around Christmas, and I will hold my hands up to being just as susceptible as the next person to succumbing to the Christmas glut of flavours. The temptation to stick festive flavours – mincemeat! Marzipan! Peppermint! Cloves! – into every passing dish is sometimes overwhelming. The supermarkets are just as guilty as the rest of us, even more so given some of their offerings this year: mince pie flavoured vodka, Christmas pudding smoothies, brussel sprouts tea and (incredibly) christmas tree flavoured crisps.
But I promise you that this ham is not just another festive flash in the pan. It’s genuinely gorgeous, and the Christmassy flavours work incredibly well with the sweet, salty gammon – it’s a recipe that you’ll want to keep in your arsenal year-in year-out. I like ham on Boxing Day, ideally with cauliflower cheese and something green and a little bitter. It’s also, like all the best Christmas foodstuffs, fantastic cold the following day.
Braising the ham in a sugar-heavy soda comes from the Deep South, but has probably been made most famous in English households by Nigella’s coca cola ham in Nigella Bites. It works pretty well with cherry cola too, but if you want to go fully festive, it has to be ginger beer (a variation that Nigella has also used to Christmas effect). Here I’ve leaned even further into the Christmas spirit, and taken the flavours and scents of gingerbread – treacle, dark brown sugar, ground ginger, stem ginger. The result is a dark, sticky glaze, and lightly spiced, soft ham that slices beautifully. Make sure you go full fat with the ginger beer though; you need the sugar rather than sweetners to really get the ham tender.
Makes: Serves 8
Takes: 15 minutes hands on time
Bakes: 3 hours 15 minutes
2 kg unsmoked gammon
2 litres ginger ale
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 balls of stem ginger in syrup, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ginger syrup from the jar
1 tablespoons treacle
1 tablespoon dark muscovado sugar
1. Put the ham in a large pan, cover with the ginger ale, and top up with water so that the joint is covered. Bring to the boil on the hob, reduce to a simmer, and cover loosely with a lid. Allow to simmer for 3 hours.
2. Once the ham has had its time, preheat the oven to 220°C and carefully transfer the joint to a roasting tray. Allow the joint to cool enough so that you can handle it without burning yourself. Carefully cut away the skin from the top of the joint, leaving a layer of fat. Score the fat with a sharp knife diagonally first one way and then the other, to create a diamond pattern.
3. Mix the treacle and ginger syrup together, and paint this onto the diamonds, and then sprinkle the diced stem ginger, the ground ginger, and the muscovado sugar on top. Roast for fifteen minutes, before slicing and serving.