Unlike the vividly pink ham commonly found in stores, this home-cured ham contains nothing but salt, sugar and real herbs and spices, which means it is perfect to share with your baby and the whole family. It’s important to note that the absence of additives such as nitrates, artificial flavours or colour enhancers, means that this ham differs in both appearance and flavour to the smoked leg ham you are familiar with. The art of home curing is slow yet simple. Most importantly, it’s deeply satisfying being able to serve your family a wholesome alternative to commercially processed ham.
If you plan on cooking a ham for Christmas, allow approximately 300g of cooked ham per person (this will likely be less if you are serving the ham alongside other meats).
Nitrate-Free Christmas Ham
- 2 kg free range boneless pork leg or sirloin roast
For the brine
- 3 litres water
- 1 litre pressed apple juice (not concentrate) – or sub for an extra litre of water
- 800 grams fine sea salt (20%)
- 400 grams demerara sugar (10%)
- 12 juniper berries
- 1 TBSP black peppercorns crushed
- 4 bay leaves crushed
- 4 cloves
For the glaze – optional
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar or brown sugar
- 1/2 orange juice and zest
- 1 TBSP dijon mustard
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp ground allspice or ground clove
- 1 handful whole cloves optional
For the brine
- Put all of the ingredients for the brine into a large saucepan, bring to a boil, and leave to cool.
- Transfer the brine into a food-grade bucket and chill to 3°C. Weigh your piece of pork and record the weight. Place it in the bucket and submerge it completely in the brine. Use a clean plate or weight to keep it submerged.
- Refrigerate for 3 days per kilo. So for a 2kg roast you will need to keep it in the brine for 6 days. Once ready, remove the ham from the cure, wipe it dry with a clean cloth, and place it on a wire rack, uncovered in the fridge for 24 hours. Your ham is now ready to cook.
Cooking your ham
- Put your ham in a large cooking pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Remove any foam that comes to the surface.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer very gently until the internal temperature reaches 70°C. This will take anywhere from 1-2 hours depending on the size of your ham.
- Remove the ham from the cooking liquid and allow it to cool slightly. The ham is cooked and ready to be eaten, or you can go ahead and glaze it.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Slice/peel the skin off the ham and score the fat in a diamond pattern.
- Sit the ham on a rack over a roasting tray that has been lined with baking paper (for ease of cleaning).
- Combine all of the glaze ingredients in a small bowl, then smear it all over the ham. If you wish, insert a clove at the intersection of each diamond.
- Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until caramelised. Baste the ham with any remaining glaze or juices halfway through cooking, and check to make sure it isn’t burning. Cover loosely with foil if it is. Serve hot or at room temperature.