Wednesday 11 December 2013

Christmas Gammon with a Beetroot & Wasabi Glaze

A sweet blazing-pink beetroot syrup with a sting of wasabi is the glaze I've chosen for my Christmas gammon this year. To bring together the earthy flavours of beetroot and the nose-blast of wasabi, I've added crunchy pink peppercorns and a handful of fresh pomegranate seeds.

Beetroot-Glazed Gammon with Wasabi
Christmas Gammon with a Beetroot & Wasabi Glaze, studded
with pink peppercorns and fresh pomegranate seeds. Plate by
my uncle David Walters, master potter of Franschhoek.

Both the peppercorns and the pomegranate seeds featured in my Christmas 2012 gammon recipe and I'm so smitten by the combination of brittle-textured warmth and bursting sweetness that I've used them again this year. I don't think I'll ever stud a gammon with cloves again because, really, what's the point? Nobody's going to to chew on them (unless you have an elderly relative with severe toothache), and all you need do to achieve a subtle Christmassy clove aroma is to pop a few into the gammon's simmering stock.

This is the fourth gammon glaze recipe I've developed for this blog over the same number of years, and I always feel a bit anxious when November rolls around because I receive more queries and feedback about glazing a gammon than any other topic. This year I pondered for several weeks over a choice of glaze, and eventually inspiration came from a short magazine piece I was asked to contribute to Food & Entertaining magazine.  It's a food love letter to my grandmother Peggy, and in it I mention the wonderful combination of sliced ham and pickled beetroot, which I ate as a child in the Sixties in Peggy's garden.

Beetroot-Glazed Gammon with Wasabi
When you slice the gammon, the shocking-pink beetroot glaze penetrates
 the scoring marks. Serve with dobbles of wasabi and boiled baby potatoes.

A good jab of horseradish really brings the blood-and-earth flavours of beetroot alive, but instead of using the creamed variety, or fresh root (which I couldn't find in the shops), I whisked some Japanese wasabi paste into the glaze once I'd finished reducing it.

To my disappointment, the wasabi lost much of its fire during the glazing process, and faded like a sullen teenager into the background. So I doubled the quantity of wasabi from one teaspoon to two the next time I tested the recipe, which helped a bit, but still the flavour was elusive.

I therefore recommend that you serve this (in thick slices) with generous blobs of good-quality wasabi paste.

I have given detailed instructions below for simmering a gammon in stock, but please use your common sense here. I find that the cooking times given on the packaging for bone-out raw gammon (usually 55 minutes per kilogram) are excessive. This year, I cut 45 minutes off the recommended cooking time, and even then the gammon seemed a little overcooked.

Beetroot-Glazed Gammon with Wasabi
I've had good results with cooking gammon in a roasting bag.
I've tried all sorts of methods of cooking inexpensive Christmas gammons - slow-seething in stock, baking under foil and paper, slow-cooking in a crockpot, overnight cooking in a roasting bag -  and have come to the conclusion that everything depends on the quality of the ham.

For this recipe, I used inexpensive boneless gammons from Checkers for testing purposes, and they were okay, with a good flavour, albeit a bit too salty for my taste.  But there is a certain stringiness about mass-produced hams that cannot be fixed, not matter how carefully you cook them. I suspect that the gammons I bought this year had been frozen for several months, then thawed and placed on the shelf. I can't be certain of this, but there was a tell-tale coarseness and stringiness about the flesh that was most disappointing.

For my family's Christmas feast this year, I am not going to skimp on the gammon. A good quality gammon should be fine-textured and moist, with a deep rosy pink colour and a good layer of snowy white soft fat.

>> To see my gammon glazes of Christmasses past, plus three other recipes using the leftovers of a gammon, please scroll to the end of this page.

Christmas Gammon with a Beetroot & Wasabi Glaze

For the gammon and its stock:

one x 2.8 to 3 kg bone-out raw gammon
1 can (340 ml) ginger ale
1 can (340 ml) lager of your choice
2 bay leaves, dried or fresh
3 cloves
10 peppercorns
1 star anise
a small wedge of lemon, skin on
a sliver of fresh ginger
½ tsp (2.5 ml) coriander seeds
1 onion, cut in half, skin on
1 large carrot, cut in thirds
a few stalks of parsley
water, to cover

For the glaze:

2 medium-sized beetroot
3 Tbsp (45 ml) water, plus an extra half-cup [see recipe]
5 Tbsp (75 ml) white sugar
2 tsp (10 ml) wasabi paste
a squeeze of lemon juice

To garnish:

2 Tbsp (30 ml) pink peppercorns
the seeds of a pomegranate (or dried pomegranate ariels that you've soaked in water for 30 minutes)

Boiling a gammon in stock
Boiling a gammon in stock with some Christmassy
flavours. Top up the pot with water now and then,
 and skim off any foam as it rises. 
Put the gammon into a big deep pot and add all the remaining stock ingredients. The gammon should be covered in liquid to a depth of 2 cm.

Bring the gammon to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer at a very low burble, covered with a tilted lid, until it is cooked through (follow the timing instructions on the packaging, but please note my  comments above).

 Every now and then top up the pot with more water, and skim off any mocha-coloured scum as it rises.

In the meantime, make the glaze. Grate the beetroot, skin and all, on the coarse side of a cheese grater.  Put the gratings into a large microwave-safe dish, add 3 Tbsp (45 ml) water, and cover with clingfilm. Microwave on high for 8-10 minutes, or until the beetroot is tender. Alternatively, simmer the grated beetroot and water over a gentle heat for 15-20 minutes, or until tender.

Cool the beetroot for a few minutes, tip it into a sieve set over a bowl and drain well, pressing down on the pulp with the back of a spoon to extract all the juices.

Discard the pulp (or save it for stirring into a hummous or creamy dip) and pour the liquid into a saucepan. Add 5 Tbsp (75 ml) sugar, plus an additional ½ cup (125 ml) water. Set the pan over a high heat and cook at a fast boil for about 15 minutes, or until the liquid is syrupy, and has reduced down to half a cup (yes, go ahead and measure it!).  Whisk in the wasabi paste and add a squeeze of lemon juice.

When the gammon is cooked, remove it from the pot, cover with clingfilm and let it sit for two hours on the countertop. Alternatively - and I recommend this method, as it allows the meat to cool and contract, without drying out - let your gammon cool overnight in its stock. (I always freeze the stock in small plastic boxes for use in future soups and stews.)

To glaze the gammon: set your oven grill, at least 20 minutes ahead of time,  to its highest setting.  Place the meat in a large roasting pan.

Carefully pull away the thick skin from the top of the gammon to expose the fat layer. Discard the skin, or give it to the dogs. If it's a very fatty gammon, use a sharp knife held horizontal to the fat to shave away excess blubber. I like to retain a fairly generous layer of fat - it is Christmas, after all - but you can shave it back to a depth of about 3 mm if you'd like a leaner ham.

Score the fat in a diamond pattern, using the tip of a very sharp knife. I use my index finger to gauge the distance between score marks.

Now pour the beetroot glaze over your gammon. Don't worry if most of it runs off - this will be fixed during the glazing process. Place the pan about 10 cm under the blazing-hot grill.

This is the trickiest part of glazing a gammon. You will need to watch it like a hawk, because the tallest areas will brown - or burn - first. I always set a stool in front of the open oven door, put on a pair of padded gloves and sit there patiently tilting and turning the roasting pan to make sure every part of it is bubbling and caramelised.  Every 3 minutes or so, I use a big spoon to scoop up some of the glaze from the corners of the pan and trickle it over the gammon.

When your gammon is merrily sizzling and the fat layer looks caramelised all over, remove the tray from the oven, place it on the countertop and tuck a folded-up cloth underneath one end to set it at a tilt.  Continue for the next 10 minutes scooping and dribbling the run-off glaze gathering in the pan's corners over the gammon, until it is coated with a thick, shiny burnish.

Scatter the pomegranate seeds and pink peppercorns all over the gammon, while it is till sticky.

Serve warm with dabs of wasabi, boiled baby potatoes and fresh green leaves, or cold with bread, butter and pickles.

Serves 6-8 as a main course with veggies and/or salad. 

My other gammon glazes, plus three recipes using the leftovers of a gammon:

Christmas Gammon with a Pomegranate & Pink Peppercorn Glaze
Christmas Gammon with a Pomegranate and Pink Peppercorn Glaze

Christmas Gammon with a Sticky Orange & Ginger Glaze
Christmas Gammon with a Sticky Orange & Ginger Glaze

Christmas Gammon Glazed with Brandy & Coke
Christmas Gammon Glazed with Brandy & Coke

And here's what to do with left-over gammon:
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TourismSue said...

So here is the first of the many gammon-related questions...
When you cool the gammon in the stock, do you leave it on the counter top, or do you refrigerate? I've left it on the counter top overnight in the past and it's always been ok, but I'm a bit concerned that this isn't the best in terms of food safety... what are your thoughts?

Jane-Anne said...

Hi Sue!

Thanks for your query. I allow it to cool on the countertop, but my kitchen is quite cool. I would definitely refrigerate it overnight on a scorching hot day. I don't think you need necessarily to worry about any overnight deterioration as gammons are salty and this inhibits bacterial growth. I hope that answers your question! Regards, Jane-Ane