Christmas Ham

We had this ham a lot when I was growing up. And my mum and her partner regularly bring a joint of ham they’ve cooked for a Christmas present or a moving in gift. And it’s so appreciated when shop-bought slices of ham are just so expensive. And I’m calling this my Christmas ham, but we made this loads over lockdown when there was an increased team effort going on in the kitchen.

But the real point is that there is a very festive smell that drifts happily through the house when the ham is cooking. Bing Crosby is always ringing in my ears when I whip the spices out of the cupboard.


Now, I must mention the spices. Some of these can be extremely expensive, but I only use them because they’re in the cupboard, lingering from another recipe, not because I bought them especially. So, please don’t buy anything for this, just have a rummage through the spices and bung in anything remotely festive. And if that means you only add the crumbs from the bottom of an empty jar of cinnamon sticks, so be it. It probably makes hardly any difference to the flavour of the ham, anyway. If you do have a hunt through the herbs and spices, but don’t know what to add, here is a list of what I added this time: bouquet garni, bay leaves, black mustard seeds, yellow mustard seeds, cloves, star anise, black peppercorns, cinnamon bark. And I honestly just bung some in, no measuring.

Seeing as this is a long old process, I will walk you through the stages. Each stage only takes a few minutes to set up, so you can do this whilst getting on with other jobs, for sure.


The gammon joint will be very salty if you cook it straight away, so a good thing to do if you have time is to soak it in water overnight. Make sure it’s immersed and switch the water from time to time in order to get the most effective result. I usually clear a shelf in the bottom of my fridge to store the pan overnight.


This is the bit that fills the house with super Christmassy smells. After draining away the soaking water, immerse the joint in cheap cider, bung in some Christmas spices and allow to simmer for 40 min. Never let it boil otherwise your ham will be tough as. The next stage is roasting, so you can leave the ham in this spicey cider liquor overnight in the bottom of the fridge again if you want to delay the next stage.


This stage will cook the meat, so it’s important you cook the ham until it’s 71*C to avoid any nasties. I really love to spooge a load of honey and mustard as a glaze on the outside, but we have friends who use wholegrain mustard, or hoisin sauce, so you can mix this up as much as you like. Experiment! Anyway, I like to baste at 20-minute intervals if I’m able to so that I can keep topping up the sticky honey glaze. I advise using baking paper or foil underneath to avoid spending the next 48 hours soaking and scrubbing your roasting tray!

Once the joint is 71*C inside, you’re ready to serve or chill and keep in the fridge. I love to serve it fresh with jacket potatoes – there is no ham as tasty as a freshly roasted joint.

But you can also keep it and the leftovers in the fridge to cut for days to come afterwards. I recommend cutting on demand to avoid the meat from drying out.


  • 1-2kg unsmoked gammon joint – feel free to have smoked if you like
  • 2l cheap cider
  • assortment of festive spices – don’t buy anything especially
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard


  1. Soak joint in water overnight to help remove excess salt. Discard water.
  2. Simmer joint in cider and spices for no more than an hour.
  3. Cover in honey and mustard and bake at 180*C for 40-60 mins until 71*C in the centre. Re-baste every 20 mins if you have time.
  4. Slice thinly and serve fresh or from the fridge for several days after.

By Alex Thurman from for Lovedbyparents.

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