How to make ham, and why it is so tender?
• Cambridge, England
2 Jan 11
Ham is the cured (salted and sometimes smoked) upper part of the hind leg of a pig. It is usually bought ready cooked and often sliced but one can buy the cured leg and cook it oneself. It can be either had boned and rolled or with the bone in. There will be a layer of skin with a good layer of fat beneath it. The first thing to do is to boil it. The time depends on the weight and whether or not it has the bone in. This is usually done in water which covers the ham (so you need a large pot) to which some flavourings - normally some bay leaves and an onion stuck with cloves - and an acid (such as fruit juice, cider or even Coca-Cola) have been added. The point of this is to remove some of the salt, partly cook the ham and to tenderize it. Once it is boiled, the water is discarded and it is allowed to cool slightly, the skin is removed (this just peels away from the fat), the fat is scored in a diamond pattern with a sharp knife nearly down to the meat and, often, the joint is anointed with a glazing of marmalade, apricot jam or honey and mustard powder, stuck with cloves and roasted until the outside is crisp and brown. It can either be served hot or left to cool and sliced thinly. It is always carved across the grain, down towards the bone (if the bone was left in). Home cooked (or traditionally cooked) ham is always drier than the prepacked, presliced stuff that you can buy and it has a much better flavour and texture.