Gammon isn't just for Christmas although Christmas isn't complete without one. This wonderfully succulent joint of meat makes a great alternative to a roast. A definite crowd pleaser.
How do I cook a gammon?
A whole gammon is impractical in this day and age as it can weigh as much as 10kg, so you’ll find it cut into smaller, more manageable joints – corner, middle, knuckle end and slipper gammons.
The middle gammon, also known as a fillet end, is the top half of the leg. It weighs 2-3kg and is the best gammon joint for roasting or boiling, because it yields the largest, neatest slices. It can either be cooked on the bone, or boned and rolled to make carving easier. You’ll still need a large stock pot or preserving pan in which to cook it.
1. First soak the gammon to remove the excess salt. Small pieces need 8 hours or overnight; larger joints (up to 5kg) need to be soaked for at least 24 hours, with a couple of changes of water.
To check you’ve removed enough of the salt, slice off a small piece, drop it into a pan of boiling water and leave until cooked. Taste it and if it’s still too salty, leave the joint to soak a little longer in fresh water.
2. Calculate the cooking time by weighing the gammon and allowing 20 minutes per 500g. Then put it on a petal steamer or trivet in a large pan, add cloves, fresh thyme, bay leaves and 2 litres water or apple juice, bring to the boil and simmer until done.
Push a skewer right into the centre of the joint. It should give way and feel firm but not rubbery. The skewer should feel hot when pressed to the back of your wrist. Alternatively, use a meat thermometer and take the gammon out when the temperature reaches 65-70C.
3. Leave the joint to cool in the liquid, then lift it out and cut away the skin, leaving behind the layer of fat. Score the fat in a diamond pattern, but not so deep that you cut into the meat.
4. Put the gammon into a roasting tin lined with a couple of sheets of foil. Brush with your chosen glaze. Stud the centre of each diamond with a clove and roast at 220°C/fan 200°C/gas 7 for 20 minutes.
Gammon vs ham
A ham is a whole raw leg which is then cured. Gammon is cut from a section of the leg, which has already been cured. Gammon can be smoked or unsmoked (‘green’) but is always cut from the back leg. So, even though the cut is often called a Christmas ham, what you actually buy is gammon. Hope that clears it up!
See our Christmas cook's guide to turkey.