Essence of Ham

This extravagant but splendid basis for a rich brown sauce, particularly espagnole, was considered almost essential to really good cooking from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. Here is how they made it in 1833 at the Thatched House Tavern.


  • 2–3 lb. (1–1½ k.) lean raw ham cut into 1-in. (2½-cm.) pieces
  • 3 or 4 carrots, cut into 1-in. (2½-cm.) pieces
  • 3 onions, peeled and sliced
  • a little butter
  • 1 quart (1 l.) very good brown or white stock
  • 4 oz. (120 g.) mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 6 cloves
  • 3 or 4 sprigs each of parsley and thyme


Put the butter in a saucepan and melt gently. Add the ham, carrots and onions and fry, turning, till beginning to brown. Be careful they do not stick. Pour on the stock and add the other ingredients. Cover closely and simmer gently for 2–3 hours. Do not let it reduce by more than a quarter. Strain and keep in refrigerator or deep-freeze to be used in any brown gravy or sauce, or added to the gravy of stews and casseroles.

For immediate use, try the following gourmet’s recipe for Braised Cooked Ham.