When I came across this recipe, I was intrigued. Why would a cook of Nigella’s quality seemingly attempt to destroy a good ham by boiling it in this sugary, coloured, caffeinated water? I am not a fan of Coca Cola. Mostly because I cannot handle caffeine (it is one of the many triggers for my migraines). Also, it has been proved to be an effective cleaner of toilet bowls, so I can only imagine what it does to a person’s insides… But what it does to a ham is actually little short of miraculous!
There is, I am afraid, no getting around the fact that this really is a trailer trash recipe. But sometimes we all need a little trash in our lives, right? And when it tastes this good, well I think we can be forgiven. This is a recipe that ticks all my boxes: cheap (depending on the ham you buy), easy (very little prep at all), tastes great and provides leftovers. Oh, and the kids chomped it down in record time the minute I told them it was cooked in Coke!
Sunday lunch was completed with a couple of slices each of cornbread, that staple of U.S. cooking (particularly Down South, Y’All) and some oven-crisped kale. Everything got a good dousing of gravy, which I made using some of the leftover cooking cola, pan juices (from the meat’s resting period) and some pineapple juice.
1. Ham cooked in Coca Cola
For the ham
- 2 kilograms mild-cure gammon joint
- 1 onion (peeled and cut in half)
- 2 litres Coca-Cola
For the glaze
- 1 handful of cloves
- 1 heaped tablespoon black treacle
- 2 teaspoons English mustard powder
- 2 tablespoons demerara sugar
- I find now that mild-cure gammon doesn’t need soaking, but if you know that you’re dealing with a salty piece, then put it in a pan covered with cold water, bring to the boil, then tip into a colander in the sink and start from here; otherwise, put the gammon in a pan, skin-side down if it fits like that, add the onion, then pour over the Coke.
- Bring to the boil, reduce to a good simmer, put the lid on, though not tightly, and cook for just under 2½ hours. If your joint is larger or smaller, work out timing by reckoning on an hour per kilo, remembering that it’s going to get a quick blast in the oven later. But do take into account that if the gammon’s been in the fridge right up to the moment you cook it, you will have to give it a good 15 minutes or so extra so that the interior is properly cooked.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 240°C/gas mark 9/450ºF.
- When the ham’s had its time (and ham it is, now it’s cooked, though it’s true Americans call it ham from its uncooked state) take it out of the pan and let cool a little for ease of handling. (Indeed, you can let it cool completely then finish off the cooking at some later stage if you want.) Then remove the skin, leaving a thin layer of fat. Score the fat with a sharp knife to make fairly large diamond shapes, and stud each diamond with a clove. Then carefully spread the treacle over the bark-budded skin, taking care not to dislodge the cloves. Gently pat the mustard and sugar onto the sticky fat. Cook in a foil-lined roasting tin for approximately 10 minutes or until the glaze is burnished and bubbly.
- Should you want to do the braising stage in advance and then let the ham cool, clove and glaze it and give it 30-40 minutes, from room temperature, at 180°C/gas mark 4/350ºF, turning up the heat towards the end if you think it needs it.
Additional information – for gluten free switch the English mustard powder for a gluten free mustard, such as Dijon.
2. The Cornbread
The cornbread recipe is my favourite, tried-and-true, Joy of Cooking recipe for Southern Cornbread (as made for Thanksgiving last year):
- 1 tablespoon bacon fat, lard, shortening or butter
- 280g stone-ground cornmeal (preferably white; as mentioned, I used polenta as a substitute)
- 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 500ml buttermilk
1. Put the fat into a cast-iron skillet (or a pyrex dish) and place in the oven to melt. Mix together all the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs until foamy and then whisk in the buttermilk.
2. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just blended. Remove the dish from the oven and pour the batter into it all in one go (careful not to get splattered with hot fat!). Return the dish to the oven and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the top is browned and a knife poked in the center comes out clean.
3. The Kale
- Chopped kale leaves (several large handfuls, approx. 250-300g)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
1. Heat up the broiler on your oven. Arrange the kale on a baking sheet, drizzle with the oil and season with the salt and pepper. Toss the kale so it is evenly coated.
2. Put under the broiler until crispy (but not burned!) about 10 minutes (depending on your oven).