Nothing says holidays more to me than a big leg of Christmas ham slowly roasting in the oven and the prospect of eating it for lunch.
Every year we work through the ham over a week or so of sandwiches, ham and egg breakfasts, and finally ham and egg quiche. I always save the ham bone, intending to make pea and ham soup, and throw it out around July when I clean the freezer.
The most surprising thing about Christmas ham is that more than two-thirds of ham sold in Australia is made from imported pork. Always look for for the pink Pork Mark or the words Product of Australia.
The Australian PorkMark Ham Awards have awarded the title of Best Nationally Available Ham to the Woolworths Half Leg Ham – Bone In. They say this ham has a great cure, great creamy fat, good salt and great colour. Second place went to the Bertocchi Australian Leg Ham – Hickory Smoked.
World Animal Protection has released Your Responsible Ham Guide, designed to help consumers make a ham choice that reflects better animal welfare for pigs. They surveyed major ham producers, and while Woolworths and Coles participated, ALDI, IGA and some major brands did not.World Animal Protection believes people who use the guide to buy send a message to the pig industry and supermarkets that animal welfare matters.
There are only two hams that get the tick, Woolworths Gold Free Range Leg Ham and Coles Finest RSPCA Approved Free Range Ham.
The best place to buy your ham is from a butcher you trust, but if you are buying from the supermarket shelves, here are some tips to help you choose.
5 tips for picking a great Christmas ham
With the title of Fleischmeister and master butcher, Horst Schurger, who hasMaster’s Degree in Butchering and Smallgoods, is not a man to ignore when it comes to ham tips. This is what he advises.
- Look for a natural meaty texture: avoid the wet or rubbery.
- Choose a ham with a good smoky flavour. Ask to taste it.
- Look for smooth, even skin and even colouring. If the knuckle is sunken, it’s overcooked. If the rind if buckled or uneven, it’s a sign of dryness.
- Hams 10-12kg are most likely to have the best flavour and texture due to the age of the pig.
- For the best results, opt for fresh Australian pork rather than hams made in Australia from frozen imported meat.
How to store your Christmas ham
Sometimes the Christmas ham can hang around for a while, and it’s essential that you maintain vigilance on its cutting and wrapping. My dad never trusted anyone else to cut the ham so he would fill a container with ham cuts for hungry teenager’s sandwiches.
Try these tips from the experts on maintaining ham freshness.
- Dip your ham bag (linen tea towel) in a solution of 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Squeeze out excess moisture and place ham in the bag.
- Store in the coldest part of the fridge (below 4°C). Leg ham on the bone should last for up to 3 weeks.
- Rinse and re-dip your ham bag in water and vinegar solution every three days, or as needed.
Carving the Christmas ham can be a problem if you don’t have a plan of attack. Here are some tips from the experts.
How to carve your Christmas ham
Glazing the Christmas Ham
A glaze on the ham not only looks great but it adds extra flavour. There’s nothing like fighting over those bits that have the extra glaze. I sometimes hide them under the ham when I’m cutting so there’s a treat for later. (Don’t tell the family!)
I’ve gathered a few recipes from Brisbane food lovers for you to try.
Jerome’s Christmas Ham plan
I’m not alone when it comes to enjoying ham for Christmas. Jerome Dalton, who heads up leading Brisbane caterer Dalton Hospitality, says he was planning on eating his own ham this year.
“I did plan on my own ham from our pigs but an unfortunate cool room breakdown ended that dream,” says Dalton. “Each year we buy free range hams from Tillari Trotters who farm at Tamworth. These local hams are quite dry, unlike the poor quality imported ones. The only cruelty at our Christmas table is that I cook and then wash up!”
Jerome’s Ham Glaze
- 1 litre of cloudy apple juice reduced to around 50 percent until it browns and thickens
- brown sugar
- star anise
Christmas Ham is not an optional extra
Ham is not optional for Michael Dalton who runs wholesale speciality food distributor Fino Food and Wine, based in Bulimba.
“ A ham is essential,” says Dalton. “I get mine from Quattro Stelle, a Sydney based smallgoods producer. It’s a Duroc/Berkshire cross pig and gently smoked over apple and beechwood. Controversially (in my family at least), I refuse to be bothered with a glaze. I bake it at a low temperature to warm it through.”
Loves eating ham for Christmas
Chef Dominique Rizzo, owner of Putia Pure Food Kitchen/Pantry Cooking School at Banyo, says she loves eating ham for Christmas.
“I don’t tend to eat ham through the year, saving that beloved all time favourite flavour and tradition for Christmas,” says Dom. “This year I am picking one up at my local butcher on Sandgate Road, Ashcroft Meats. Ashcroft is a real traditional butcher with their own smokehouse and good old fashion service, where you order the ham and hope not to miss out.”
“Normally I would glaze the ham but this year I am going to serve it fresh with an assortment of mustards, relish and accompaniments.
Dom’s Ham Glaze
1 jar of marmalade with the orange pieces
a little orange juice and honey.
Stud the ham fat with cloves and then brush with the marmalade mix. Bake the ham while still basting with the mix and continue until the ham is golden brown.
“It turns out a gorgeous golden brown, sticky and scrumptious,” says Dom.
Christmas ham on the bone
Harold and Christine Fleming are known for the moreish fillings of the soft buns they sell around Brisbane from the Bun Mobile. Harold says they always have a Christmas ham on the bone.
“We source it from Gillys Smallgoods,” says Fleming. “I have been a customer of theirs for many years. They supply all of our pork and smallgoods on the Bun Mobile and are located at Clontarf.”
Harold says his ham glaze recipe is pretty simple but very tasty:
Harold’s Ham Glaze
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Blend Smoked Honey
2 tablespoons grain mustard
Mix it all together and splatter it over a skinless, scored ham on the bone. Bake in hot oven until golden brown and crispy.
Christmas without ham is no Christmas at all!
Campos Coffee Queensland Director Eugene Phua says a Christmas without ham is no Christmas at all! He always shops local at Petersens’ Quality Meats in New Farm, which has been serving the local community for over a century.
“The ham must be sliced thinly and served cold on this hot summer day accompanied by delicious plum sauce for that Asian influence from my cultural background,” Phua says.
Eugene Phua’s Christmas Ham Glaze
1 (about 6-8kg) whole leg ham, on the bone
120g dulce sugar
60ml maple syrup
100ml plum sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Whole cloves, to stud
Step 1 Stir the sugar, maple syrup, plum sauce and mustard in a bowl until the sugar dissolves.
Step 2 Preheat oven to 170ºC. Line a large baking dish with 2 layers of non-stick baking paper. Place an oven shelf in the lowest position. Score the fat in a diamond pattern, about 5mm deep. Stud the centres of the diamonds with plenty of cloves.
Step 3 Brush one-third of the glaze over the ham. Bake, brushing with glaze every 15 minutes, for 1 hour 30 minutes.
Still worried about glazing your ham? Here’s a few tips from the expert again.
Disclaimer: Ed+bK loves ham and will be buying one soon.