Friday 23 November 2012

Christmas Gammon with a Pomegranate and Pink Peppercorn Glaze

Over the years I've received more happy feedback - via Twitter, Facebook and email - about my glazed gammons than any other recipe, something that pleases me enormously, because a ham glistening in an extravagant glaze is so often the highlight of hot-weather Christmas feasts in South Africa. Here is my new gammon recipe, and I have to say it's by far and away my favourite to date. This elixir of pomegranate syrup, cherry juice and crunchy rosy-pink peppercorns is dead easy to make, and tastes sensational drizzled, warm and syrupy, over a gammon that has been simmered in spicy stock.

Christmas Gammon with a Pomegranate and Pink Peppercorn Glaze
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

My original plan for this recipe was to stud the glazed gammon with a cheek-by-jowl layer of sweet, fresh pomegranate seeds. But pomegranates are going out of season, and I couldn't find any, so that is something I'll try next year.  (Postscript:  My 2013 gammon was lovely with fresh pomegranate seeds. Here it is >

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.

Christmas Gammon with a Pomegranate and Pink Peppercorn GlazeThis 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.

Christmas Gammon Glazed with Brandy and Coke
If you’re using a smallish boneless gammon, cook the meat for 40-45 minutes per kilogram, or according to the directions on the packaging. Check the pot now and then, and top up with more water: the meat must be completely submerged. Turn the gammon over half way through the cooking process.

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.

Let the glaze cool for 5-6 minutes, or until it has thickened slightly. Using a pastry brush or the back of a teaspoon, paint it all over the top and sides of the gammon.  Don't worry if it slides off into the roasting tin.  Put the gammon in the lower third of the oven underneath the blazing-hot grill and leave for 4-6 minutes (depending on the heat of your grill) or until the glaze is bubbling furiously, and the fat is beginning to spit, but is not yet burning. Take the tray out of the oven, tilt the pan, and use a spoon to scoop up the puddle of run-off glaze and slather it all over the top of the gammon.  Put it back in the oven - turning it the other way round this time - for another 4-5 minutes. Remove it from the oven once or twice during this time and repeat the re-glazing process described above.

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.

When the gammon looks richly burnished and is merrily sizzling, take it out of the oven, place the tray on the counter and tuck a rolled-up kitchen cloth under one side so the pan is steeply tilted. Tip the reserved pink peppercorns into the glaze that accumulates at the deep end of the pan. As the joint cools over the next 20 minutes or so, trickle the run-off glaze - which will thicken and become very syrupy in no time - all over the top.

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. 

Cook's Notes
  • 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:

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Vicki said...

Love this post J-A. I think they might be only coming into season now as our fruits are teeny tiny on the plant and the Woolies site says they're avail until April. V x

C_Mogz said...

Just made gammon following this recipe, it tasted amazing, great instructions and explanations. Easy to follow and will be making again. Finding pink perpercorns was a mission but hey worth it. THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR SHARING

Jane-Anne said...

Hi Vick. I did see some elderly ones in the shops yesterday but they looked about a month old. Maybe there's just a shortage.

Hey C_Mogz! Thank you so much. I'm thrilled that the recipe worked for you. And you're welcome.