How to cook Christmas Ham

How to cook Christmas Ham

30th Nov 2021

A delicious and decorative Christmas ham is a gift that just keeps on giving long after the festivities are over. The Holiday Season is perhaps the one occasion where we can fully indulge in enjoying a copious amount of succulent meat without a single drop of guilt.

How to cook Christmas ham – The perfect recipe + directions

Before revealing the perfect recipe and cooking directions, we quickly need to consider the following:

Choosing the ham

Many folks like to start with fresh pork and brine, especially if they’re really organised in the kitchen. But do this a few days ahead at least. However, it’s also become the norm to kick things off with ready-cured pork – also known as gammon – for cooking at home. Just an FYI, a ham is the entire leg while a gammon is a piece cut off of a cured leg.

Older recipes will typically say how you should soak gammon for about a day to get rid of the excess saltiness. But this isn’t really needed now – still, it wouldn’t hurt to check the label or ask your butcher.

You can always use smoked gammon for your ham although some people prefer green, dry-cured gammon. It’s your choice entirely.

Cooking method

Gammon is typically cured not cooked, so you need to make up your mind about poaching or baking it prior to adding the glaze.

Ham can be cooked in practically any kind of liquid – from spiced wine and orange juice to cider and even Coca-Cola – the latter of which is an idea that flew straight in from the American south where they prefer their Christmas treats to be somewhat sweet and sticky.

The glazing

Christmas ham truly stands apart from any garden gammon because of the glaze, or as some like to call it, the icing on the piggy cake. This needs to taste fabulous and look great too. A basic mixture of mustard and a sweety edge works well, so experiment with a little French mustard and brown sugar or marmalade. Add a little double cream or cloves for more texture and flavour.

Alternatively, you can replace the mustard powder with just plain flour and use soft brown sugar along with orange juice or sherry.

On the temperature side of things, a short hot oven blast should do it. Sprinkle a little extra sugar after the glaze is on, if you want to give it added caramelisation.

How to cook Christmas ham – The perfect recipe

Right, so on to the good stuff then!

The recipe below should easily serve 8 individuals. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Boneless gammon joint, approx. 2kg
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 3 tablespoon black treacle or molasses
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon allspice
  • A pinch of mace
  • A handful of cloves
  • Half peeled orange thinly cut into strips

For your glaze:

  • 1.5 tablespoon mustard powder
  • 5 tablespoon brown sugar (plus some extra for the sprinkle)
  • 20ml ginger wine
  • Half zest of orange finely grated


  • Put your ham in a large stock pot and cover with cold water. Add the spices, molasses and orange peel. Bring gradually to a simmer as you skim off the scum. Continue to simmer gently for about 1.5 hours until the ham’s temperature reaches 68°C.
  • Heat your oven to 220°C. Take the ham out of the liquid and allow to cool a bit. Carefully cut off the skin, leaving as much of the fat beneath as possible. Score into a diamond shape and stud the intersections with some cloves. Now place your ham in a roasting tray lined with foil.
  • Mix the glazed ingredients into a thick paste and brush it over the fat. Place it into the hot oven for roughly 25 minutes, basting it twice and adding a sprinkle of sugar until the glaze is nicely caramelised and comes to a bubble. Let it cool off completely before serving.

Final thoughts on how to cook Christmas ham

Life is indeed good when you know how to cook the perfect Christmas ham! Rich, dark and spicy sweet mouth-watering ham should continue to bring festive cheer to you and your loved ones long after the festivities of the big day are over.