|This is the gammon I prepared for our Christmas Eve feast this year, served with fresh cherries on|
my mum's beautiful blue and white platter. I added fresh pomegranate seeds to the coating.
You won't find either of the starring ingredients at your corner shop, and you'll need to plunder Woolies and a good spice merchant or deli to lay your hands on them. But I promise this will be worth the effort.
Because pink peppercorns are so pretty, they are sometimes dismissed as a gimmicky ingredient, but they have a lovely, warm mild aroma and taste, and are so good combined with the salty richness of gammon and the tart, sweet punch of pomegranate concentrate.
As pomegranate concentrate is expensive, and at least 200 ml of liquid is needed to glaze this gammon, I have opted to use as a base for the glaze the wine-dark syrup from a tin of pitted cherries.
This recipe uses a smallish (1.3 kg) gammon, which will feed six to eight as part of a festive spread. I recommend, if you are expecting a crowd, that you buy two boneless gammons of about this size (and then double the recipe) rather than one gigantic, bone-in gammon. Really big bone-in gammons are tricky to cook correctly - there's always a danger that the outside of the joint will be rubbery and overcooked while the flesh next to the bone is still raw. (Two years ago, my mum ordered a 5-kg cooked gammon from a famous supplier only to find that it was still bloody within.) And certain big hams have a tendency *cough* to collapse in the pan.
This is not difficult to make, but I have given detailed instructions (plus several tips in the Cook's Notes at the end of this post) so that your gammon turns out perfectly.
Christmas Gammon with a Pomegranate and Pink Peppercorn Glaze
1 x 1.3 kg smoked, boneless gammon
one can (330 ml) ginger ale
one bottle (330 ml) of your favourite beer
1 large onion, peel on, quartered
1 thumb-length quill of cinnamon
3 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
2 bay leaves
2 whole star anise
12 black peppercorns
a small bunch of parsley
water, to cover
For the glaze:
1 x 425 g tin (nett weight) pitted black cherries
4 Tbsp (60 ml) pomegranate concentrate/syrup, preferably Verlaque brand
1 Tbsp (15 ml) white granulated sugar
a tiny pinch of ground cloves
the juice of a large lemon
2 Tbsp (45 ml) pink peppercorns, lightly crushed, plus extra for garnishing
Weigh your piece of gammon, or make a note of the weight printed on the label. Put the gammon, fat side up, in a large, deep pot and add the ginger ale, beer, onion, cinnamon, carrots, bay leaves, star anise, peppercorns and parsley. Pour in enough water to cover the gammon to a depth of 2 cm. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat so that the gammon cooks at a slow burble. Partially cover the pot with a tilted lid.
Turn off the heat, If you're serving the gammon cold, leave it in its liquid to cool completely. If you're serving it hot, proceed immediately as follows (see my Cook's Notes at the end of this page).
Lift the gammon out of its stock and pat it dry with kitchen paper. Cut off the netting and gently peel off the rind (it will come away easily) and discard. Now, using a very sharp knife, neatly trim some of the fat off the top of the ham (how much is up to you; see Notes). Score the fat into a diamond pattern with the tip of the knife. Put the gammon in a roasting pan, fat-side up. If it leans over - as a small gammon will do - tuck a wedge of lemon or onion underneath it so presents a fairly level surface to the grill.
Put on the oven grill at its highest setting (usually 220 ºC) and, if your oven has a fan, turn it on.
To make the glaze, tip the tin of cherries into a sieve set over a bowl. You'll only be using the syrup; put the cherries in the fridge for smoothies or future desserts. Into a saucepan, put the syrup from the cherries, two tablespoons (30 ml) of the pomegranate syrup, the sugar, a tiny pinch of ground cloves, the juice of half a lemon, and two tablespoonsful (30 ml) of crushed pink peppercorns. Bring to the boil over a medium-high flame, stirring now and then to dissolve the sugar, and let the mixture bubble briskly for about 8 minutes, or until it has reduced by half and is looking slightly syrupy. When it measures half a cup (125 ml) - and, yes, go ahead and measure it! - it's ready. Immediately strain the syrup through a tea strainer or sieve to remove the peppercorns, and set these to one side.
Stir in the remaining two tablespoons of pomegranate syrup and just enough extra lemon juice to give the glaze a pleasing sharpness - a teaspoon or two should be enough.
It's crucial to watch this process like a hawk - you can leave the oven door ajar if you like - so that you can whip the gammon out the minute the glaze looks like it's on the point of burning. Don't take your eyes off the joint for a second.
At this point, you can serve the gammon warm with some boiled baby potatoes, or refrigerate it until needed. However, I find that it's best to glaze it close to the time you serve it, so I suggest that if you're planning a cold spread you boil the gammon a day in advance, and glaze it an hour or two before your guests arrive.
To serve, scatter a generous handful of extra whole pink peppercorns over the top of the ham. Put it on a platter lined with fresh leaves and take it to the table with a pot of mustard.
Serves 6-8 as part of a Christmas feast.
- For a 1.3 kg piece of gammon, an hour and 10 minutes is about right. (If you’re using a large, bone-in gammon, cook it for 50-55 minutes per kilogram, or according to the instructions on the wrapping.)
- How much fat you cut away is up to you - I like to leave a generous blanket on top, on the grounds that it's Christmas. But you can trim away as much as you like, provided that you're left with a layer at least three millimetres thick.
- It’s a good idea to boil the gammon the day before, and to leave it overnight in its liquid to cool. If you're in a hurry, you can glaze a gammon not long after you've boiled it, but do let it cool for at least 30 minutes on a cake rack set over the roasting pan. If you try to glaze it immediately after it comes out of the pot, the juices that flow from the hot joint will dilute the syrupy glaze in the pan.
- Don't throw away the liquid in which you cooked the gammon: it makes a wonderful, rich, salty stock that (if you've used a bone-in gammon) jellies as it cools. Decant it into small pots (or ice-cube trays) and freeze it for use in future stews, curries and soups.
- If you've made two gammons, or one huge one, and there is lots left over, have a look at this post about how to turn the left-overs into a hearty tomato and lentil soup (scroll to the end of the page).
My other Christmas gammon recipes: