In spite of Monselet’s eulogistic poem and the title Animal Encylopedique bestowed upon it by Grimod de la Reynière, it is certain that without the culinary value of its hams, pork would not hold the place it does in the repertoire of the classical kitchen.
In effect, the ham provides a valuable resource and whether it be Bayonne, York, Prague or Westphalian it is hardly necessary to say that no other joint enjoys such favour when served as a Relevé.
The question as to which ham should be used is very difficult to decide. Nevertheless the preference must go to the sweet ham of Bohemia—the Prague ham—for serving hot and to the York ham for cold. This last ham is also excellent when served hot but even so is inferior to the Prague, the delicacy of which is incomparable. However, the York ham holds one of the first places in the esteem of gourmets and it is the most used and most highly recommended ham after the Prague. The Cooking of Ham: Soak the ham in cold water for 6 hours, brush it well then remove the aitch bone. Place it in a large pot with plenty of cold water and with no seasoning or flavouring whatsoever. Bring to the boil, then allow to simmer very, very gently indeed, sufficient only to cook the ham by poaching.
If required for cold, where possible leave the ham to cool in the cooking liquid.
The cooking time for a ham varies, naturally, according to its weight and quality. Allow approximately 20 minutes per
The Braising of Ham: When required for serving hot, remove the ham from the liquid 30 minutes before the completion of cooking. Remove the skin, trim off the excess fat, i.e. just remove the surface leaving the fat approximately
Place the trimmed ham in a braising pan just large enough to hold it and add about
Cover with a tight-fitting lid, seal with a flour and water paste and place in a warm oven for 1 hour so as to complete the cooking and to allow the ham to become completely impregnated with the aroma of the wine.
If the ham is to be presented whole it should first be glazed.
The usual accompaniment is a light Sauce Demi-glace with the addition of the braising liquid, skimmed of all fat and pass through a fine strainer.
The ham may be glazed if necessary in the same manner as other braised joints but this is not very practical, neither does it add anything to the quality of the joint. The most widely used method and the one to be recommended is to well cover the surface of the cooked ham with icing sugar, using a sugar sifter. When covered with an even coating, place it in a very hot oven or under the salamander. The sugar will caramelize instantly, enveloping the ham in a golden and appetizing coating which adds an excellent flavour to that of the ham.