Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Glazed Gammon

Gammon is pork from the hind leg of the animal cured in brine while it is still attached to the side of the pig. Historically, before the advent of refrigeration, fresh pork was not much eaten for fear that it was bad but it was instead cured to make gammon and ham and bacon and in such form was hugely popular. Gammon is fabulous for many things - as a simple supper with fried eggs and, if the lovely boyfriend has his way, chips. It's great cut into thick slices between thick slices of crusty bread - mustard optional. I really like it with creamy potato salad and it is perfect in lunchboxes with brown rice salad and a few crisp sugarsnaps. It's inexpensive to buy and easy to cook and it gives you so much pleasure. It is a perennial favourite.

When cooking it really needs to be simmered for at least part of the time so that it will be juicy and tender but it takes very well to being glazed and finished off in the oven. To glaze a piece of gammon you need to take the skin off after it has been cooked - it is really easy to do with a sharp knife. Then you cut the fat - and it should have a nice ridge of creamy fat for flavour and succulence - into diamonds by simply slicing at an angle across the top of the meat then slicing at the reverse angle to make crisscrosses. This is really easy and when it is finished it is so impressive - it's a pleasure to see.

Glazed Gammon

1 piece of unsmoked gammon about 1 1/2 kg
1 onion - unpeeled and halved
1 large carrot - roughly chopped
1 stick celery - roughly chopped
Bouquet garni of parsley, thyme and a bayleaf
10 peppercorns
10 cloves

For the glaze
50ml honey
50ml port
2 tbspns brown sugar
30-40 cloves

Put the gammon into a large pan with the aromatics and cover with fresh cold water. Bring to the boil and skim any scum that floats to the surface. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for around 90 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to cool for 15 minutes in the liquid - or completely if you're not ready to glaze it.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200C/400F. Place the meat on a board and when cool enough to handle cut the skin off as thinly as possible with a very sharp knife then cut score the fat at an angle all the way across then again at the opposite angle to make a diamond pattern across the meat. Push a clove into the centre of each diamond. Rub the brown sugar into the fat. Heat the honey and port till it simmers. Put the gammon into a roasting pan and pour the honey/port mix over. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes till deep gold but keep an eye on it - the sweet glaze can catch and burn quite easily.

Remove from the oven, cover with foil and when cool, refrigerate overnight.

Unveil and expect applause for the magnificence of this dish!

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