Day 21 #ElfieAdvent – Tastiest ham recipe ever, kindles poignant memories

Crusted ham courtesy of Diane Morgan Cooks

Well, the clock is winding down and almost all the advent calendar windows are open – it’s nearly Christmas! For those of us in charge of planning the Christmas day menu, Lesley from our Communications team has got a whopper of a recipe for your festive ham that will have your dinner companions begging for more!

I reach for this recipe every Christmas, from Arabella Boxer’s Christmas Cooking cook book, as I reach for the tissues – for this is a festive favourite that my late mother always cooked for my family every Christmas. As I delve into its food-caked pages, imagining my mum fingering its pages with sugar and breadcrumb-coated hands, I’m always transported back into her hectic Christmas kitchen when she’d be shouting at the dog to get out from under her feet, while slapping my dad’s and my hand away from the delicious fare she was producing.

Not only does it kindle memories of my mum, it is just simply delicious and my own children just devour it, annually fighting over the last bits of sugary-savoury crust that tops this delectable dish of ham.


Serves 10-12

  • 1 ham or gammon 3.5-4.5kg/8-10lbs
  • 3 large onions
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 3 large carrots
  • 2 turnips
  • 2 parsnips
  • 4 parsley stalks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 15 peppercorns
  • 225g/8oz granulated sugar
  • 300ml/½ pint cider vinegar
  • 1 cup soft brown sugar
  • ½ cup fresh brown breadcrumbs
  • 1 dessertspoon French mustard
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus cooling

Cooking time: 3 – 4 hours

Oven: 180 °C/350° F, gas mark 4


  • Soak the ham in cold water for 24 hours then remove from the water and put in large saucepan with vegetables, parsley, herbs, vinegar and granulated sugar. Cover with cold water and bring almost to boiling point.
  • Time the cooking from the first moment bubbles start to reach the surface. Do not allow it ever to reach simmering or boiling point. Allow 20minutes per 450g (1lb) skimming off any brown froth that rises to the surface. Keep the heat well below boiling point all the time.
  • When the cooking time is up, turn off the heat, pour in a cup of cold water to arrest the cooking, and leave the ham to cool in the water. When cool, lift the ham out of the water and remove the skin.
  • Mix the brown sugar and breadcrumbs to a paste with the mustard and vinegar. Smooth the mixture all over the fatty surface of the ham with a palette knife, pressing well in. Do not do this too far in advance of the baking or most of it will slide off.
  • Bake for 45 minutes in a preheated oven, basting half-way through with a little extra vinegar. Leave for 15 minutes in the oven with the heat turned off and the door slightly open, or in a warm place before attempting to carve. Service with Cumberland sauce or mustard sauce.

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