A cure for Christmas,gammon you can do it

Ham it up: a whiff of home cure wafts across your neighbourhood.There’s a fast-growing trend to smoke, pickle or dry-cure your own festive food.Come the festive season eating becomes a forage into a squirrelled hoard of treats: the jars, tins, balsawood boxes and less pretty, but functional vacpacs, inside which lie the delicate results of ‘cures’ achieved using sugar, salt, booze or smoke. Preserves are as much a part of my Christmas as the big fat bird and brussels sprouts, only I find them far more interesting. Often they are memories of past Christmases. We recall the specialities our forebears once loved; the image of an elderly relative eating sticky dates on the stalk while watching the telly. My grandmother, for example, felt Christmas was not Christmas without sticky Elvas plums, hand prepared by nuns on a rooftop in a remote town in the hinterland of Portugal and afterwards despatched to Fortnums, where preying suede gloves were ready to pounce on them.It bugs me that we often spend our adult lives trying to be different from our parents, but at Christmas we become them.A sort of forgiveness, in a way, but mostly it is about treating ourselves to how we were once treated. If you are going to splurge — and almost all cured foods are expensive — you may as well buy what you have always known tastes good, unless you become your own artisan and make your own cures and preserves type of person.Over ten years ago the thespian´s friend Louise Nina Knight passed on her recipe which is the one we have always used.Every year now since we moved to Portugal the thespian cures our own ham and each year becomes more proficient at it.And each year he has gathered yet another disciple to the cult.This year we are taking it one step further and have managed to procure online a top quality high purity Saltpetre Potassium Nitrate which we hope will give it that characteristic pink colour and add a distinctive flavour while at the same time acting as an anti-oxidant.
Louise Nina Knight´s Home cured Ham

Here are the instructions in her own words with a few additions from myself
1 leg joint with skin on and bone in ideally about 5 kilos( see above).Get your butcher to cut it into the joint size you require and then follow the brining guidelines
4 kilos = brine for 12 days 3 kilos = brine for 9 days 2 kilos = brine for 6 days

1 1/2 litre cider( you can use light beer or all apple juice)
3 litres apple juice
1 litre water
15 juniper berries
1/2 kilo brown sugar
1/2 kilo black treacle or more brown sugar if unavailable
1kilo salt
5 crushed bay leaves
10 cloves
20 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon allspice
30g saltpetre
( optional..this makes it pink like a proper ham otherwise it will be roast pork coloured but ham flavoured..saltpetre is available on e bay. or possibly through an obliging local butcher...make sure it is FOOD GRADE though I could not get it here as it is a component of bombs along with liquid glycerine which ironically Dear Delia puts in her Chocolate truffle torte Yes, this is the one where the English nation ran out of liquid glucose, because of (it has to be admitted) the power of television.In fact you can add any spices you desire to the sugar,juice and water…
Bring all above ingredients to the boil and then let it cool completely. I use a large cool box which fits into a spare fridge ...whatever you use must be non metallic..a small cool box or massive tupperware thingy perhaps .... ham must be submerged within

Put ham into the container and I put it into the fridge as it's not cold enough to leave out Leave for corresponding number of days,make sure it stays under the brine,I put the cool box lid on and then I usually give it a prod every day or two and turn it too.
Then remove and cook.... I have never soaked my brined ham before cooking..but you can soak for 6 hours or simply bring to boil and throw away first boiling water and add clean water and bring to boil again,then simmer for 2 to 3 hours depending on size . I then skin mine and glaze it with honey and cloves..but you may choose whatever you wish at this point..I then roast it in the oven until the fat is golden and bubbly.Aim to have the ham ready to cook on 23/24 December so count backwards for your brining time. Its really easy once you've made the brine All you need is some patience.Thanks again to Louise for a cracking recipe.


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