By Ian Leatt
On cold, blustery, wet mornings, lying in bed half asleep as the wind and rain thrashed against the window pane, I would find myself slowly stirred to wakefulness by the aromas wafting into my room.
Living with my Gran drove my taste buds insane. How many times would I stumble out of the bedroom to be attacked by myriad aromas coming from the kitchen?
My taste buds would go crazy, anticipating the delicacy I was about to eat. Gran, I should explain, had a way of making something out of nothing, bless her.
“It’s the honey, Ian,” Gran would say. “Pardon?” I would inquire. “It’s the honey that is making your mouth water. It’s honey stimulating your tastebuds and whetting your appetite. Not only that, it tastes good. And it will coat that irritated throat of yours.”
“Thanks Gran,” I would reply. She was always thinking of me. But is honey simply a tasty but empty treat? Far from it.
One of the true pleasures in using honey is discovering the different floral varieties that lend their flavour to honey. Every honey pot is different in its appearance and quality, and experimenting with their unique taste will help you find one with special appeal for you.
The uses and benefits of honey in foods are as diverse as its floral varieties and places of origin. If you can learn about your honey’s origins, it is almost like acquiring wine knowledge through wine-tasting and getting information on each wine’s origin, quality and worth.
Honey and Orange Glazed Ham
A beautiful centrepiece of any buffet, a roasted ham needs little to tart it up. Cooked with a stunning glaze, it remains a firm family favourite across the province, with good reason.
To decide on a glaze, you need simply to select a flavour that goes well with ham, then add something that will caramelize meat.
Combinations of fruit and vinegar are always popular: fruits that go well with pork include apricot, orange, apple or pear, plum or cherry. Vinegar or vinegar substitutes include balsamic vinegar, cider vinegar, port or red wine, or orange juice.
Add brown sugar, maple syrup or honey to these combinations and you’ve made your own world-beating ham glaze. See for yourself how easy it is.
16-pound piece of ham with the bone
Zest of 3 oranges
Juice of 3 oranges
2 tsps. powdered mustard
1 tsp. of cloves
200 ml honey
100 ml maple syrup
Heat the honey in a small saucepan for five minutes or until dark brown, then add the maple syrup, orange juice and zest, mustard and one teaspoon of cloves. Cool to room temperature. Pre-heat oven to 180 C.
Clean the ham thoroughly. Using a small sharp knife, firmly score a zig-zag line around the base of the ham, making sure you cut right through the skin and into the fat. Take your knife and, starting at the other end of the ham, run the knife under the skin and over the top layer of fat that lies just beneath.
Using your fingers to make a gap between the skin and the fat, peel the skin back as you go. Keep working your fingers along the ham, pushing the skin away from the fat. The skin should peel away leaving the fat in one piece. Finally, remove all the skin from the ham.
Use a lon,g sharp-bladed knife to carefully trim any excessively thick layers of fat. Ideally, the fat should be at least 5 mm thick all over the ham.
Again, use your knife to score the fat in a crisscross pattern, making diamonds about 1½ cm long. Do not cut into the flesh. When you have finished, stud the centre of each diamond with one clove.
Place the ham on a rack in a large roasting pan. Half fill the roasting pan with water and brush ham liberally with one half of the cooled glaze.
Your ham needs a cooking time of 10 minutes per pound or 15 minutes a pound for a full leg. You will need to baste the ham often. After the first 30 minutes, spoon some of the juices over the ham, then use a large pastry brush to spread some of the remaining glaze across the ham. Do this every 10 minutes for a full leg of ham.
After the cooking is complete, remove the ham from the oven and let it return to room temperature. Carve the ham at a slight downward angle so that every slice is rimmed with a succulent layer of glaze. Enjoy.
Happy Friendsgiving, everyone.
Ian Leatt is a former chef in Jersey, the Channel Islands, and is general manager at Pegasus Publications.