Every now and then, dear readers, I like to give YOU - yes that's you personally, something back as a reward for your dedication. And today is one of those days.
You may be aware (and if you are not, where on earth have you been for the past two years?) that I have more than a passing interest in "ham".
That is ham as in lovely mouth watering pink stuff made from a pig, not hamming it up like some third rate clone of Tony Blackburn in my Sunday night karaoke show at the White Hart, just to clarify.
Now I have been experimenting again. I like experimenting ;-). In fact for the past few years I have tried all manner of ways of cooking ham in order to get that fresh from the deli, a quid a slice, perfect finish that you get when you have it sliced for you at Sainsbury's. I have all the gear, even the faithful old Andrew James slicer, which I swear by. And I don't mean expletives when I slice bits off my fingers after fancying a few slices late at night after a few drinks. I learnt many years ago when foolishly drunkenly attempting to open a can of corned beef (one of those ones with the key) not to do that again. I think the blood stains may still be visible on the ceiling of my old house in Southwold to prove it.
So, I have baked, boiled and tried a combination of the two. I have cooked in Coca Cola, Strongbow, Ginger Beer, and countless others. I have glazed with honey, mustard, black treacle, golden syrup, brown sugar and more. But there is one element of the cooking process I have not been able to get right.
When you buy "Honey Roast Ham" from a supermarket it has the flavour of the honey running right through it. This applies from the nice stuff on the deli, all the way down to the bargain basement slimy watery re-formed into square shaped slices (presumably to fit the cheap and nasty basic sliced white bread also available) at the bottom of the range.
Now the problem I have always had, is that no matter what glaze, or what I boil it in, I always get a lovely flavour on the outside of the ham, but the flavours don't permeate all the way through it. It's also very difficult to avoid any sugar based glaze turning into a black sludge in the oven. I have tried all the standard advice, cutting a lattice shape into the fat, that sort of thing, but remain disappointed.
It's also quite a challenge perfecting getting the ham right, not undercooking it, or overcooking it is quite a challenge. There is a very small window in which to get the texture "just right".
But - no longer! I have found the solution! Funnily enough it has been staring me in the face on the kitchen surface all this time, and has even been described by me in the past. A couple of years ago I was on another quest to produce "deli-style" roast beef, and discovered how to utilise the slow cooker to do just that, adopting what is known as a "sous-vide" style of cooking. I didn't actually include that in this blog, but it is in fact described in my recently released book, "Fortysomething Father".
So - here I present to you, how to make the perfect honey roast ham. What you need to do is put your joint of ham in a food or freezer bag that can be sealed. Pour a generous amount of honey into the bag before you seal it. Make sure the bag is fully sealed. Place it in the slow cooker. Boil the kettle and pour the water in. Leave the slow cooker on its medium setting for a couple of hours, then turn it down to low. Then just leave it for a few hours. In total, a small joint should take about six hours, but if you have got a really big one, such as you would have at Christmas you can leave it overnight, say for about 10 hours.
At the end, remove bag from water and open - carefully, as there will be a lot of steam. Because the temperature did not get excessively high, the honey will still be golden, but now liquid where it has mixed with water that has come out of the joint. Leave to cool, preferably until the next day and then slice.
The result is lovely, almost dry cured style ham with the flavour of honey running throughout. Some of ones I have achieved are so gorgeous you could imagine they have been hung up for three months to dry out and for the flavours to develop.
Go ahead and try it, ham fans, you won't be disappointed! I have got one on the go now, along with a Rustic Style French loaf. All will be finished by mid afternoon, when I get back from Nash's.
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