Things I Tried: Cooking Gammon

I’m no chef, I can get by in the kitchen if it isn’t anything hugely complicated but I’m a bit bored of the same-old same-old, so when I was offered a 2kg piece of gammon at work I thought it would be a great chance to try my hand at cooking something a little bigger. I will admit to being a bit taken aback at the size of it when it arrived, I didn’t really have a reference point for weights of meat apart from the packs of bacon we produce at work.

I wasn’t brave enough to follow Christine’s recent example of adding lots of ingredients and things to the pot and then glazing the gammon, so here is what I did instead. It had been cured a particular way at work and I didn’t want to overwhelm it with other flavours – perhaps once I’ve proven to myself I can cook a gammon I might try something more adventurous next time! I found a few recipes online and decided to follow the most basic parts of the instructions. Photos were taken on the run with my phone so may be a touch blurry.

my gammon
2kg of lovely gammon

I sat it in a saucepan full of water for several hours to remove the excess salt, a step I wasn’t expecting and delayed me by a day. Not to worry, anything that helps! I kept turning it over as it wasn’t completely immersed in the water – this pan is the biggest-depth container I own in the kitchen other than the washing up bowl, which I didn’t want to use! It must have been a good four or five hours at least, and plenty of salt came out so I was happy it was working. After that I removed it and kept it in the fridge until I returned home from work the next evening, I’d started late so there wasn’t time to cook it that evening.

On Tuesday evening I was eager to get started. I boiled it with fresh water briefly, before changing the water, adding two slices of apple and leaving to simmer for a couple of hours. They say 30 minutes per 500g (or 20 mins per 450g). I wasn’t going to use any ingredients at all, but as I was jumping around Google to find the cooking time I saw someone had added an apple in with their other ingredients, and I thought that sounded like a good idea try on its own.

Again I had to turn it around every 40 minutes or so, to make sure every side was cooked. It was cooking for 2 hours 20 minutes all told. This was a little more than planned but at the 2 hour point it didn’t look ready at all, every recipe said to look out for the outside hardening and that didn’t happen for a while.

Boil for 2 Hours

Then I transferred it to the oven for just over half an hour, took it out and let it rest for ten minutes to let the juices flow out. Some recipes said to keep the stock to make soup, I could’ve done that had I been prepared but instead I poured it over the gammon in the roasting tin and transferred across the apple to soak in the juice for the oven cooking time, a complete guess in the hope it would add more flavour. Meanwhile the potatoes and peas were cooking in another pan.

 

30 minutes in the oven

Finally, the moment of truth!

Finished!

Ta-da!

Okay so the plate isn’t the most inspring, just a bit of gammon with some little potatos and peas. It is fair to say Christine’s looks far more impressive and is reflective of the extra work put in, but I’m still very pleased that I managed to cook gammon that hasn’t been pre-sliced, which I would just whack in the oven for half an hour.

Verdict

It isn’t as tender and ‘falling off the bone’ as the recipes described but that’s fine, this was my first try. I think I probably soaked it too long as it isn’t very salty, and boiled it too long as it is quite hard and dry! And the apple did give it an ‘interesting’ taste which left me disappointed (although I do like the jelly stuff it left behind). However, all that said it is still very tasty and I’m enjoying it very much with my evening meals and in my lunchtime sandwiches!

I think on the whole the fact it is still edible at all after I’ve been near it can be considered a success, I was genuinely scared I was going to ruin it and have to throw it all away, yet actually it looks like the whole thing is useable. I am pleased to cook my first large piece of meat, it has given me the confidence to try other things in the kitchen. Janna has given me an idea to cut up some cubes of gammon and use in a pasta bake so I’ll be trying that soon – probably not with a blog post.

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4 thoughts on “Things I Tried: Cooking Gammon”

  1. When cooking meat, it will more or less always undergo the following changes with increasing cooking time: raw – rare – rosy soft and juicy – grey, not juicy and tough – grey but even tougher – still grey and tough – still grey and tough – (…) – grey but getting softer – getting even softer and juicier – very soft and juicy – falling apart into fibres.

    So either you aim to cook it precisely to the point where it’s rosy and juicy and still soft, which requires some experience (or a roasting thermometer if it’s a big piece of meat) – or you cook it long enough for the meat to become softer again, which starts somewhere between 90 and 150 minutes, depending on the type of meat, the size and other variables. The latter method only really works in a wet environment, otherwise it will just get drier and drier. The first method works best with “dry” cooking techniques like searing, roasting, grilling, frying etc.

    The first method is best for expensive and lean cuts of meat like filet, steak, roast beef / rump steak, pork tenderloins, but you could also use it on a regular pork roast, maybe the tied-up ones looking a bit like your gammon.

    The second method works for all types of meat but it’s a bit of a waste to use expensive cuts for it, and it just tastes better if you use cheap cuts of meat with some fat, sinews and connective tissue in it. In the wet environment after a couple of hours, the collagen in the connective tissue is going to “dissolve” into gelatin, which is what gives a great stew that lovely “body” and mouth feel and which thickens the sauce (if you’re producing a roast together with a sauce or making a stew). This is how a classic stew works, and why stews often are even better after warming it up the next day.

  2. Ok I forgot: cured pork like gammon of course doesn’t turn grey, but that aside it’s the same process. I’d say curing also changes the consistency of the meat during these stages a bit: It’s tougher from the start already, but during the toughest stage it’s a bit less tough than uncured meat.

  3. That’s fantastic information, thanks Soeren! Sounds like maybe I could’ve cooked it another 20 or 30 minutes. I’ll be trying this again some time so I’ll refer to this when I do. 🙂

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