Simple, classic and, with the addition of cider, incredibly tasty. Surprisingly easy to prepare, a home-cured ham is a satisfying and low-cost alternative to a roast joint. Start curing this weekend to be ready to serve for Easter next weekend. Any leftover ham can be used to make lots of other dishes; soups, sandwiches, salads, omelettes, risotto, tarts, pasta sauces, pie fillings etc.
I saw a recipe in The River Cottage Meat Book for cider-cured ham and adapted it, with helpful advice from Vincent Castellano and Steve from Buxton Butchers, to serve at the Spring Cider Dinner last weekend. I used curing salt (with added saltpetre), which is optional but helps to keep the meat pink, and Ben Crossman’s Farmhouse cider (from Bristol Cider Shop) in the brine but any good quality still farmhouse-style cider will do. I used a whole leg of locally reared free-range Gloucester Old Spot pork and cured in 10 litres of brine for a week. This easily fed 18 people with plenty to spare. Depending on how many people you are planning to feed, buy a suitably sized joint of pork and adjust the recipe for the brine accordingly, ie. for every kilo of meat you will need about a litre of brine.
For 8-12 people
Half leg of pork (4-5kgs), on or off the bone (boned will cure quicker and is easier to carve).
Brine (5 litres);
375g salt, 1 litre cider, 1 litre apple juice, 3 litres water, 125g demerara sugar, 2g juniper berries, 5g black peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, 1g cloves
Bring the water, sugar and spices/bay to the boil, stir in the salt, bring back to the boil to dissolve then remove from the heat. Add the apple juice and cider when cooled slightly. leave to cool completely before immersing the pork joint. Store in a sealed non-metal container in the fridge for a week, turning occasionally if necessary.
The day before you plan to serve the ham remove from the brine, rinse with cold water (no need to soak with this recipe) and place in a saucepan with a carrot, bay leaf, onion, stick of celery, sprig of thyme, a few peppercorns and a handful of parsley stalks. Cover with fresh cold water and bring to the boil. Remove any scum that comes to the surface and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 4-5 hours. Remove the ham and cool slightly. Pass the stock through a sieve and reserve to use in sauces or soups.
Preheat the oven to 180c, remove the skin of the ham and rub in a mixture of honey and whole grain mustard all over. Roast for about an hour until the ham is golden and sticky.
Serve while it’s hot with parsley sauce, buttered potatoes and greens, or any way you like. Enjoy with real cider!
Here’s a link to the River Cottage recipe, Hugh waxes lyrical about ham which is sure to inspire you and get your taste buds tingling http://gu.com/p/26hmh.