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How to Boil a Ham

Jul 12, 2008
Boiling meat has largely gone out of fashion, mainly I think because a number of the cuts of meat associated with it are no longer all that popular either.

This is not necessarily a good thing. As a way of cooking meat, boiling is cheaper than roasting and it preserves more of the essential minerals and vitamins, as long as the cooking liquid is used for gravy.

The unappetizing color of the meat following boiling may be part of the problem, and one way round this has always been to pickle the meat first, such as in the case of spiced beef. Joints of this type are now commercially prepared and it is a simple matter to cook them in simmering water for about 30 minutes per 500 grams (per pound).

One meat that is still traditionally boiled, especially for festivals such as Christmas, is ham and my method for preparing this is as basic as you can get.

You need either the hock (sharp) or butt (blunt) end of a country cured ham. The bit in the middle is the gammon and should be reserved for frying or grilling (broiling).

First soak the ham overnight. Two things will happen. Some of the salt used in the curing process will be leached out and the meat will absorb some of the water, making it both heavier and more moist. Discard the soaking water.

Place the ham in a large receptacle which might be anything from a big saucepan to a handy bucket - one Christmas we used an old baby's bath - and cover it with cold water. Add no salt or seasoning.

Bring to a gentle simmer, partially cover and cook like this for 25 minutes per 500 grams (20 minutes per pound) and then turn off the heat.

Allow the ham to partially cool in the poaching liquid until you can handle it comfortably. Take it out and immediately strip off the skin by grasping it firmly at the thickest end of the joint and pulling back. You may need to snip it with kitchen shears or a sharp knife to assist you in this.

Now put the joint in the fridge to cool off completely. Finally, cover it with plastic wrap to retain moisture (do not use a damp cloth) and carve as required. Be careful to replace the plastic wrap with fresh each time you do this, and always keep the meat refrigerated until needed for use.
About the Author
Michael Sheridan - The Cool Cook - is a former head chef and an acknowledged authority and published writer on cooking matters. His website at All About Cooking, contains a wealth of information, hints, tips and recipes for busy home cooks, including video based how-to guides.
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