Few things say Christmas quite like a glazed ham in the middle of the table, glistening golden-brown and studded with cloves. While there are a large number of beautifully cooked examples in the supermarkets, there’s nothing like basking in your family’s praise as you unveil your very own masterpiece for a Boxing Day lunch.
Sourcing a free-range uncooked ham might take a bit more effort but you will be able to taste the difference and you’ll be doing your bit to help animal welfare and smaller producers into the bargain. Most suppliers will send a ham to you via an overnight courier in an insulated container if you can’t find one locally.
Cooking the ham
A small ham (under 2.5kgs or 5 lbs) will need to be soaked overnight in cold water, while a larger one will need 24 hours. This draws out some of the salt and stops it tasting unpleasantly salty but do check the label or ask your butcher if you are unsure whether it’s necessary. Keep the ham in the fridge while it is soaking.
A large ham will take relatively less time to cook per kilogram than a small one. Allow 30 minutes per 500g (1 lb) plus 30 minutes for a ham weighing up to 2.5kg (5 lbs). For anything larger, allow the same time per kg but don’t add any extra time on top. Of course, if you’ve got a temperature probe or meat thermometer then it’s easy to check; you’re looking for an internal temperature of at least 65°C (150°F).
500g: 1 hour
1kg: 1 ½ hours
1.5kg: 2 hours
2kg: 2 ½ hours
2.5kg: 3 hours
Place your soaked ham in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. I like to add a couple of carrots, an onion, some bay leaves, and celery too. Bring to the boil and skim off any scum that forms. Start timing from this point.
Keep the ham at a very slow simmer and avoid a fast boil at all costs. Taste the liquid from time to time; if it starts to taste very salty change it for fresh boiling water.
At the end of the cooking time, remove it from the heat and leave to cool in the cooking water.
Glazing the ham
You can serve the ham either hot or cold after boiling it but as it’s Christmas, why not take the time to glaze it? If you do this remove the ham from the saucepan 30 minutes early. Leave to cool until you can handle it without burning yourself, but don’t let it cool completely; the boiling and glazing should be done as one operation.
Remove the skin carefully with a sharp knife leaving the fat intact. Score the fat with a criss-cross pattern and pop a clove in at each intersection.
Mix the ingredients for the glaze together and coat the ham with it. Pop it into a preheated oven (190°C or 375°F) for 30 minutes, basting occasionally, until the ham is a rich, shiny brown colour. Remove from the oven and either serve hot or leave to go cold.
A whole, cooked ham will keep for seven days in the fridge.
Why not make a quick parsley sauce to serve with your ham?
Making it couldn’t be simpler: make a roux with 25g (1 oz) each of butter and flour in a saucepan. Cook over a low heat until it starts to turn a light brown colour. Now add 500ml (1 pint) of milk, whisking it in a little at a time. Finally, when it’s boiling and a nice thick consistency, add a couple of handfuls of chopped fresh parsley.
Heat through and serve immediately with some green vegetables and mashed potato for a quick and delicious lunch or supper.
The cooking liquor can be used as a stock for soup, providing it isn’t too salty. It freezes well it a bag or plastic container and can be used when you next make soup.
See our collection of Christmas recipes for more delicious festive favourites.