My experience with legs of ham has been somewhat sporadic. There are a couple of occasions where ham fits the bill better than anything else, the first is at 21st birthday parties when around 11.30pm the parents take one look at the heaving, sweaty dance floor and hastily produce a cold leg of ham beside a mountain of carbohydrate-heavy baguettes, hoping to sop up the bellies of their guests, awash with champagne.
The next is Christmas day, a stunning staple of the festive season and the family lunch table, for as we all know there's nothing like a Christmas bash without a gorgeously caramelised hind leg, piled high with roasted pineapple and slathered in mustard. It’s even better the next morning, pan fried and sandwiched between two runny eggs and thick buttered toast.
It's a great moment when you get into work one ordinary December morning, sit down at your desk that doesn't face a window, turn on your rather old PC and click on an email from the new CEO wishing everyone a very merry Christmas, employees with surnames A - M can collect their Christmas hampers from the courier dock between 10am - 12pm today.
Que? Hampers? For everyone?
It's true, I could hardly believe it, we were all given a big, squeaky styrofoam box filled with a big beautiful ham, chocolate covered peanuts, cookies, fruit mince pies, mustard and a bag of caramel popcorn that didn't last until lunch. It was pretty much perfect timing as it saved me the $150 I would have spent that exact afternoon running around buying a ham for the party I was having last Saturday night.
Brought out after runny, soft cheeses and fresh cold prawns, the ham was carved and sliced, tiny baby pickles were nestled between champagne mustard and hunks of olive bread. Fairy lights twinkled and there were even balloon hats. Someone found a Santa suit complete with beard and belt and we all woke up in the morning to find the puppy had dragged the leftover ham bone off the table from between the bottles of ruby red wine and the carnival popcorn onto the floor. Never one to miss out, he enjoyed his own feast, complete with roasted pineapple. I didn’t know whether to be annoyed or impressed, that ham weighed about three kilos!
Christmas Ham with Brown Sugar & Pineapple Glaze:
This is my Mum's recipe that she has been making for as long as I can remember, thanks Mama
1 half leg of ham (approx three kilos) keeping the bone in makes for tender meat
1/2cup of Dijon mustard
1 can of pineapple slices
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/8 cup of cloves
To remove the skin of the ham, peel back the front and slide your finger along the inside of the skin, between the layer of fat, and keep pulling back the skin and sliding your finger across the fat, until the skin gradually peels right off. You want to keep most of the fat on because that's what soaks up the glaze and keeps it moist and tasty.
With a sharp knife, remove any excess fat so you have uniform thickness over the whole leg. Score the fat with a sharp knife into a criss-cross diamond pattern. Place the ham into a deep roasting pan. and preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Pour the mustard onto the top of the ham and spread all over the fat with a knife or spoon, so you have an even coating. In a medium bowl, mix the brown sugar with half the pineapple juice from the can of slices, and mix to form a thick, gloopy paste. Spread the paste evenly on top of the mustard layer, don't worry if some of it drips into the pan, you will use it to baste. Secure the pineapple slices to the top of the ham with the cloves.
Roast the ham until warmed through, about 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 hours, every 20 minutes take the ham out of the oven and, using a large metal spoon, scoop up the juices and pour back over the top of the ham, so it becomes caramelised in the oven.
Cover with foil until you are ready to serve and carve. Serve with mustard, pickles and thick bread. Merry Christmas!