It’s December right? My head’s so far in the sand the soles of my feet are getting sunburnt. I know the concept of the calendar but the speed with which we hurtle into Christmas and a New Year never fails to catch me off guard. Being mildly (significantly) food obsessed at The Catering Dept, it’s the time of year that heralds above average food research (eating).
We work every year to recreate Christmas menus, keep a festive tradition but bring in an edgy Catering Dept twist – like our fruit mince tarts for example, this year festooned with a big peak of sweet Italian meringue, blow torched and dusted with gold. But I confess there is one thing we don’t mess with and that’s the Christmas ham.
Our Client Services Manager Georgina is famous for exclaiming one year, “ham doesn’t count as Christmas day meat.” Her point being, you have it regardless of the rest of the menu and it’s not necessarily for Christmas day, it’s for the Christmas period. I got some pretty serious side eye one year when I suggested to a house full of people that I don’t bother glazing the third ham, that we just get stuck into it. By this stage it was New Year’s Day, it was the third ham and I was well over skinning, scoring and glazing. But the outrage was palpable and I quickly got out the cloves.
Our go-to favourite glaze is bourbon and brown sugar, just mix enough of the two to make a paste and slather it all over your scored ham fat. Put a little water in the bottom of the tray to stop dripping glaze from burning and smoking in the oven. This is classic and delicious.
But what of all the leftovers? Fun with ham. Seriously. We LOVE ham leftovers because it keeps the hoards fed over the Christmas period and it’s totally low maintenance. For breakfast, put thick slices on hot toast and cover with Worcestershire Sauce – this is life changingly delicious. Make a ham Reubens by piling up thin slices of ham between two slices of dark rye with some Dijon, mayonnaise, Swiss cheese and a little pickled cabbage before toasting. Pan fry slices and serve with corn fritters for a quick Summer lunch or mix with mashed potato, an egg and a little flour to make croquettes – freeze them before egging and crumbing them and frying them to golden and crispy for a pre-dinner nibble in the sun with a local beer.
Take good care of your ham and you can enjoy it for up to two weeks – this means keeping it well chilled in a refrigerator in a ham bag or covered with a slightly damp tea towel to prevent it drying out. If you’re ham fans like us (you will be once you try the ham on toast with Worcestershire Sauce) then make sure to get a good one. Our favourite in Christchurch is a Peter Timbs ham but there are so many local butchers doing great hams, Cashmere Cuisine, Halswell Butcher and Traiteur to name a few.
Drink smart, be food safe and have a wonderful ham season.
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