Hammy New Year

A very happy new year to all of you. I hope you've enjoyed the holiday period and are feeling well rested and ready for 2008.

The start of a new year is full of such promise. There's something so exciting about a blank diary and the opportunity for a fresh start. As usual I have a host of resolutions* and the desire for reinvention. One of these years I'll realise that, as the Housemate so wisely says, "those that are truly happy desire what they already have" but maybe next year.

As much as I love the start of a new year, I'm not a big fan of New Year's Eve. The frivolity is all a little forced. It's so hard to actually organise what you're doing because people are so wary of committing to anything lest they miss out on a fuure invite to the 'party of the year'. Inevitably you end up paying £25 to get into a bar you would never normally consider and spend the whole night wondering how you're going to get a taxi home. My favourite New Year's Eve since reaching the age where it was no longer socially acceptable to stay at home with parents was the one I had tonsillitis. How I rejoiced when I realised I had a legitimate excuse to stay in bed and watch the rubbich TV counting down to Big Ben's bongs.
This year we rejected the hustle and bustle in favour of a dinner at home. Because of my self-imposed lock down on all calorific foods post January 2nd (you've got to allow New Year's Day to ease into it) we decided to go a little nuts with the treats. Not only did we have all the Christmas chocolate to finish, I also made a chocolate loaf cake and the housemate made his mum's chocolate mint mousse. There may also have been some ice-cream and additional cookies...

In order to line our stomachs before the assault of the sweets, I wanted to make a balanced main course. I decided to go for a baked ham which I made a couple of years ago. This recipe comes from Martha Stewart's Living magazine which I discovered when travelling in America. The ham is baked with cider, honey and pears. Towards the end of cooking, cranberries are added to provide a tangtastic contrast. I added to the recipe by boiling the ham in cider before roasting and using less sugar, preferring to add parsnips to the mix for their sweetness. If you want to use a pre-cooked ham, just start from step three.

This is a delicious recipe which I'm sure would be a welcome addition to the roast dinner circuit. Thanks Martha.

Baked Ham with Pears and Cranberries
Serves 8

2.5kg smoked gammon joint (choose unsmoked if you prefer)
Whole cloves (you will need about 30)
2 litres of cider (you don't need anything too fancy but I didn't want to chance White Lightening!)
1 1/2 cups of honey
1 cinnamon stick
5 pears, quartered and cored (I used Conference pears)
3 cups of cranberries (fresh or frozen)
4 parsnips, peeled, quartered and parboiled.
1/2 cup of soft brown sugar (I ended up using about half of this)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 onion peeled and cut in half

  1. Put the gammon joint into a pan of cold water and bring it to the boil. This is to remove any excess salt. Discard the water and rinse the pan of any froth and scum.

  2. Put the onion halves in the pan and put the de-salted joint on top of them. Pour 1.5 litres of cider into the pan and bring it to the boil. Once the liquid has boiled, reduce the heat to a simmer and put the lid on the pan (not too tightly). Simmer for 2.5 hours (adapt the cooking times according to the weight of the joint). You can do this in advance if you prefer.

  3. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees. Remove the ham from the cider and slice the tough rind off the joint leaving the white fat exposed. I'm sure someone clever could think of something to do with the cooking liquid, perhaps a soup base, but I'm afraid I got rid of it.

  4. Score the fat in a diamond pattern and add a clove to each diamond. Place the ham in a roasting dish. Mix the remaining 0.5 litre of fresh cider with 1 cup of the honey and pour the unctuous mixture over the ham. Roast in the oven for an hour (you may need to cover the meat with foil to stop it getting too dark). Baste the meat half way through.

  5. Add the cinnamon, pears and parsnips to the pan and cook for a further 45 minutes (basting twice). Add the cranberries and cook until the pears are soft and the cranberries are about to burst (about 30 minutes). Remove the fruit from the pan with a slotted spoon and keep them in a separate dish covered with foil. Leave the meat out of the oven, covered with foil.

  6. Pour the cooking juices into a small pan and add the remaining half cup of honey, the sugar and the ginger. Bring the mixture to a boil over a medium heat and cook until the mixture becomes syrupy and has reduced by half. Pour the glaze over the ham and cook for 15 minutes.

  7. Remove the ham from the oven, cover with foil and leave it to rest for 15 minutes or until you are ready to eat. Pour any remaining pan juices over the fruit and parsnips. I served the ham with a simple baked potatoes (you want something quite plain to showcase the sweet flavours of the meat and fruits) and green vegetables. Delicious.

* My cooking resolution is to grind my own spices, does anyone else have any good ones?


Eva said...

I completely agree with your feelings on New Year's Eve. This year, despite our idea to go to a nice bar, we ended up staying at home and having a ridiculously large pizza delivered while taking full advantage of our heating system and cable television. It was delicious and relaxing.

My resolution this year is to actually stick to my usual resolutions about my eating habits, exercise, and so on. I always make them half-heartedly, but I'm sick of it.

Lewis said...

We always stay home on New Years. My wife and I refer to that night as "amateurs night". Too many inexperienced drinkers out drinking way too much!

Love your site and welcome to the Daring Bakers!


Joy said...

Pizza and Cable? Now that's the way to start the new year! I'm definitely of the opinion that if not getting a seat is a remote possibility I would much rather celebrate at home where I am guaranteed a good spot on the sofa (unless I get the rubbish end by the drafty window). The very best of luck with your goals Eva. I've been making the same resolutions about getting into shape for years. I'm not going to stop the baking, so it looks like I am going to have to up the exercise... Please let me know how you get on.

You're so right with "Amateurs Night" Lewis! I am really excited about being a Daring Baker. Although I'm going to have to hope I have lots of people to share the results with in order to stick to the resolutions. Thank you for the welcome.

Deborah Dowd said...

Our family does a great mew year's eve chinese food buffet and celebrate at home with some small fireworks and sparkling cider.Homemade eggrolls, dumplings and hot beans, eating with chopsticks... it is definitely part of our family tradition now! New Year's Eve is totally lame but this makes it festive.

Deborah Dowd said...

Our family does a great mew year's eve chinese food buffet and celebrate at home with some small fireworks and sparkling cider.Homemade eggrolls, dumplings and hot beans, eating with chopsticks... it is definitely part of our family tradition now! New Year's Eve is totally lame but this makes it festive.

Joy said...

I love your idea Deborah - like Chinese New Year but earlier. Once something becomes a tradition it always makes it more fun. When I was little my sister and I had our 'Christmas' with Dad over New Year. We used to go to our Aunt and Uncle's house and play board games and eat far too many sweets on New Year's Eve. Those were the good days!