Baked Ham

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This is a classic in my family. We always had this for our ‘Scandinavian’ Christmas Eve dinner, when the ham was often decorated with red and white ribbons tied around the bone. It is wonderful for the days that follow as well, as it is so big and people can just slice bits off whenever they feel like it. Often a pea soup is made with the leftover bone. It is easy to find a ready-salted ham in most parts of the world, although in Italy I cannot, so I often prepare it myself. Because I don’t use saltpetre for the preserving, my ham is not as pink as those you will buy. If you are going to cure your ham yourself, you should be extra careful with the brining process, especially if you won’t be using a preserving agent. I buy a leg of pork of about 6–7 kg (15 lb) and I mix 4 tablespoons of salt and 2 tablespoons of sugar and rub it over the cleaned and skinned pork, then leave it for a day in a cool place. Next I boil up a brine for a few minutes, using 800 g (1 lb 12 oz) salt, 10 litres of water, 10 peppercorns and a few bay leaves. When this has cooled completely, I sink the pork leg in, making sure it is completely covered in liquid, and leave it for about 8 days, turning it over from time to time. Then I rinse it with cold water, pat it dry, sprinkle it with salt and pepper and wrap it in foil. I bake it at 220°C (425°F/ Gas 7) for 30 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4) and bake it for another 3½ hours. I turn it from time to time, until the ham is cooked through and hardly any liquid oozes out if I poke it with a skewer. Let it cool for a bit, before glazing it as follows.

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Ingredients

  • 1 × 6 kg (13 lb) ham
  • 80 g (1 cup) fresh breadcrumbs
  • 95 g (½ cup) brown sugar
  • 1 quantity finnish mustard
  • 12–15 whole cloves

Method

Put the ham on an oven rack that will fit over an oven dish. Mix together the breadcrumbs and brown sugar. Paint the mustard all over the ham, reaching as far underneath as you can. It might be easier to work with your hands as the mustard will start melting. Sprinkle the breadcrumb and sugar mixture all over the ham, throwing handfuls at the side to make it stick. Spike cloves in the top of the ham to make a rough diamond pattern. Only the very underneath of your ham should be bare.

Bake the ham for 45 minutes–1 hour, or until the top is golden and crusty, turning the oven up a bit for the end of the cooking if necessary. Leave the ham to cool before slicing. Serve with Finnish mustard and lingonberry jam.