Ask Peter: Glaze that stays
I can never get a glaze to stick to a scored ham. This Christmas I used a glaze of 1½ cups apricot jam, ⅓ cup brown sugar and 2 Tbsp mustard stirred over low heat to combine. Coated ham with ⅓, baked 60 minutes. Added ⅔ cup chopped nuts to remaining glaze, pressed firmly into ham and baked another 15 minutes. To my disappointment most of the glaze ended upin the baking dish. Any advice, or a glaze that would stick would be appreciated. Moira Rooney.
There must be as many ways to glaze a ham as there are flavours to infuse it. I’ll start at the beginning for those who tried this festive season to make a gorgeous ham that simply didn’t work.
The thing you’ll need to do before you glaze it is to remove the skin from the ham — although some hams have already had the skin removed. No glaze, no matter how sticky, will ever stick to skin.
The skin’s useful when the ham is initially poached, as it keeps the juiciness within the meat, but once it’s done the job, it needs to gotten rid of. On pigs there are obviously front and rear legs and the front ones are known as hocks, with gammon coming from the rear. Hams can be made from either of the legs, but they vary enormously in size — with the larger of the hams coming from the rear of the pig. Generally they’re brined, then poached until fully cooked, chilled and wrapped. You can also buy the hams raw and for that you’ll need to either brine and cook them, or simply cook them. Some will have had the bone removed, some will be bone-in. You should simply buy what you prefer the look of, and also the size that’s practical for you to have — a large 4kg leg with bone in is terrific for a large gathering of people who know they’ll make use of leftovers for days following, but for a lunch for four it’ll be a complete waste of effort.
Once the ham is cooked and chilled, the first step towards glazing it is to remove the skin and this can be done in one of several ways. For a large leg of ham, on the bone, run a sharp knife around the knuckle as you would a tomato before peeling it. Score through the skin from knuckle towards the other end of the ham in 6 places – only barely cutting into the skin. Place it in a roasting dish in an oven set to 150C and cook for around 15-20 minutes at which point the skin will have loosened a little as the fat beneath it warms up. Take from the oven and leave for 5 minutes to cool a little, then peel the skin from the fat, using fingers or the edge of a blunt knife.
Once all the skin has been removed, you’re ready to apply the glaze.
You can also remove the skin by first poaching the ham and this works well for smaller hams, or ones that youmight suspect are a little over-brined. Run a sharp knife around the knuckle as you would a tomato before peeling it. Score through the skin from knuckle towards the other end of the ham in several places — only barely cutting into the skin. Place it in a large pot and cover with cold water then slowly bring to a simmer and turn the heat off. Leave for 15 minutes, then drain into a colander and peel the skin off as described above.
For both methods, score the fat in tight diamond shapes all over, avoiding cutting into the flesh.
Place the ham in a roasting dish (which if you line with baking parchment will be a lot easier to clean afterwards) and brush with half your glaze. Looking at the glaze you used, I’d say it was simply too runny. The bulk of it was jam, and as you’ll know, once jam is warmed it melts and runs — whereas the sugar will stabilise it a little, so I’d double the sugar. If the mustard was powder, I’d leave that at the same level, but if it was mustard paste then I’d increase by half. I like to use mango flesh in my glazes, pureeing it with ginger, chilli and spices, even jams, mustards or wasabi pastes. Whatever you use, brush ⅓ on and bake the ham in an oven at 170C for 20 minutes. Baste it with the glaze that has run off and brush another ⅓ on and cook another 20 minutes. Do the same again — obviously cooking less or more depending on the size of the ham. Turn the heat up and cook at 220C for the last 5-10 minutes to give the glaze a more caramelised look, but take care it doesn’t blacken too much or burn.
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes here.