Our baked gammon recipe locks in the gammon’s superbly smoky flavors, and then highlights them with a hotly spiced, caramelized glaze. It’s served with citrusy sweet potatoes, seared baby green cabbage, mini corn cobs, and a truly exceptional cranberry sauce.
That really is an honest description of this seriously special treat — simple cooking, amazing results.
Looking back over umpteen splendid occasions, I’m constantly surprised by the fab-every-time wonders of a simple, baked gammon.
More importantly, the real joy is rooted in how it’s always — yep, always — delighted the folks I’ve been lucky enough to share it with. And this spicily glazed baked gammon was every bit as good as all the many others.
The centerpiece: galactically good gammon
Beneath a tightly sealed covering of foil, the gammon is baked on a savory bed of onions, celery, and carrots, together with cloves, black pepper, and bay leaves. There’s a little water there too, but not much — just four tablespoons.
For two hours, the gammon cooks with all its locked-in flavors in a medium-hot oven. By then, it’s so succulently tender that you can simply peel off the rind-like skin in one piece, leaving the luscious upper layer of exposed fat completely intact.
Cut a criss-cross, diamond pattern into that fat, and your gammon’s ready to be spicily glazed before getting a caramelizing bake for thirty uncovered minutes in a hotter oven.
The hotly spiced glaze
This draws its inspiration from Jamaican jerk seasoning. Now, that’s a big flavored, potent blend of high-impact spices, pretty fiery cayenne chilies, and darkly sweet brown sugar. But our gammon pairs perfectly with such a flamboyant partner precisely because it’s been carefully cooked in a way that conserves all of its wonderfully distinct, deeply mellow, smoked bacon flavors.
That’s why this combo works so gloriously well. My happy dining companions just loved the vibrant contrast between the immediate influence of the glaze and the lingering subtleties of the gammon.
An exceptional cranberry sauce
And what about that savory bed the gammon sat on? Well, its slowly melted juices will have created a flavor packed stock. This is going to underpin the simplest of intensely fruity sauces — just add cranberries to it, and simmer slowly for about ten minutes. Your sauce will have a lovely jammy consistency with a little body still in the berries.
It might be incredibly easy to make, but — mainly thanks to that marvelous stock — this sauce is full of elegantly poised, complex flavors. Here’s why. The gammon’s bed of slow-cooked onion, carrot, and celery gives the stock a vegetable sweetness that balances the pert tartness of the cranberries. Clove-infused and slightly peppery, the stock is also rich with the herbal warmth of the bay leaves, and the smoky, bacon-like saltiness of the gammon.
So, you’ve now got a superlative sauce to go with your show-stopping, spicily glazed gammon. What’s needed next is a side dish that will sparkle in such stellar company.
Citrusy sweet potatoes
This dish takes contrasting tastes and colors in a completely different direction. It builds on the potatoes’ naturally mild sweetness by baking them slowly to a creamy smoothness in a mix of orange juice, lemon juice, cinnamon, muscovado sugar, and plenty of butter.
Some thinly sliced orange peel adds just enough sharpening tang — and textural variety — to the citrusy sauce as it thickens to a rich syrup in your oven. And that’s just dandy because you’ll be baking the sweet potatoes at the same time as your gammon.
I really like how the syrupy, honey-like sweetness of the almost candied potatoes complements the full-blown savoriness of the hotly spiced gammon. That happy marriage has a lot to with the fact that honey is a key ingredient in traditional, much-loved glazes for a joint of gammon — one of those that springs right to mind is a mix of honey and mustard.
Two final touches of pure simplicity — baby cabbages and baby corn
As a counterpoint to all the lavish, bold flavors, these little green cabbages and corn cobs are such a simple pleasure.
For sure, they do add their own bright pastels to the visual splendor, but by cooking them very simply indeed, you’ll also be letting them add the purity of their own delicate flavors. And to do just that, all they need is some hot-and-fast searing heat in a little olive oil, and a generous amount of butter. Season them with a little salt and black pepper, and you’ll have a wonderfully varied pair of side dishes to complete your super-special treat.
Spicily-Glazed Gammon With Fall Sides
For the gammon
- 1 4-pound joint of boneless smoked gammon Look for one that has a full covering of rind on its top side. And do make sure the joint is encased in a cook-proof, elastic netting — this ensures your gammon will keep its shape as it bakes.
- 2 yellow onions medium-sized, peeled, halved, and cut into 1/3-inch slices
- 2 carrots medium-sized, topped, tailed, and cut into 1/3-inch discs
- 3 celery sticks cut into 1/3-inch slices, leaves and all. (As long as the leaves aren’t wilted, I’d definitely use them.)
- 12 whole cloves
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons water
- Heavy silver foil
For the gammon’s hot and spicy glaze
- 8 fresh red cayenne peppers stalks removed, then left whole
- 8 cloves garlic peeled
- 1 yellow onion medium-sized, peeled and halved
- 1 heaped tablespoon allspice berries coarsely ground in a pestle and mortar
- 1 heaped tablespoon fresh root ginger grated
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg freshly grated is the way to go
- 1 heaped teaspoon dried thyme
- 4 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons water
For the citrusy sweet potatoes
- 1 ½ pounds sweet potatoes I used the reddish-skinned variety that have a pale orange flesh. Topped and tailed — but not peeled — and cut into 1-inch thick discs.
- 2 oranges medium-sized, juice and flesh, but not the whitish pith or seeds
- 1 orange peel All the peel from one of the oranges. Use a sharp knife to carefully cut away all the whitish lining of the peel — all you want left is the orange-colored peel. Cut the prepped peel into slices ¼-inch wide, and about 1 ½ inches long. Some slices will probably be much shorter — that’s fine.
- 1 lemon juice and flesh, but not the whitish pith or seeds
- 2 heaped tablespoons dark-brown sugar I used Muscovado, but Demerara will be just fine
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
For the cranberry sauce
- 8 ounces dried cranberries Although they were tagged as ‘dried’, the variety I used were about as moist as sultanas — that’s the way to go.
- All the juices drained from the gammon’s baking dish All carefully drained and kept just before you glaze the gammon. That gave me about 1 ½ cups of those flavor-packed juices. If need be, add a little water up to the 1 ½-cup mark.
For the baby green cabbage
- 4 baby green cabbages medium-sized. Look for ones that are nice and firm, about 4 inches in diameter, and with unblemished outer leaves. Trimmed of their stalks, and halved, top-to-bottom.
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
For the mini corn cobs
- 16 baby corn cobs 4 per person, topped and tailed. The ones I used were about 4 inches long, and about ½-inch thick at their widest. The cobs are going to cook in the same skillet as the cabbages, so there’ll probably be enough buttery oil left for cooking them.
Cooking the gammon and the sweet potatoes
- The sweet potatoes are going to be cooked in your oven at the same time as the gammon. So, you’ll need to have two oven shelves ready — a low one for the potatoes, and a middle one for the gammon.
- In terms of planning, you want the sweet potatoes to be ready to go into your oven 30 minutes after the gammon goes in. My recommendation? Get the potatoes oven-ready first, then turn your attention to the gammon.
For the sweet potatoes
- Arrange the sweet potatoes in a shallow baking dish that’s just large enough to take them in a single, closely-packed layer. I used a round, ceramic dish about an inch deep and 10 inches wide. (And that’s the dish the potatoes were served in.)
- Stir all the other ingredients into a microwave-proof jug, and heat for 90 seconds on high. Give the jug another stir and pour the hot mix all over the sweet potatoes.
- There should be enough of the mixture to just barely cover the slices of sweet potato. If there isn’t, stir in a little boiling water so that the slices are just covered. The potatoes are now oven-ready — and that’s where they’re going on a low shelf once the gammon has been baking for thirty minutes.
For the gammon
- For this, you’ll need a baking dish that will hold the gammon pretty snugly when it’s seated on its bed of veg. I used a cast-iron, 14-inch gratin dish that’s about 1 ½ inches deep.
- You want that snug fit so you can easily cover the gammon with a well-sealed ‘lid’ of silver foil — to lock-in all the flavors as the gammon bakes.
- Using a fairly shallow baking dish also means you’ll get a far more even spread of heat when it comes to giving the glazed gammon its final 30 minutes’ uncovered, caramelizing cooking.
- Set your oven to 400 F / 200 C. In your baking dish, roughly mix together the onion, carrot, celery, cloves, bay leaves, black pepper, and water.
- Place your netting-encased gammon on top of the mix, and cover it with an ample sheet of foil — enough to overlap the edges of the dish by at least 1 ½ inches all round.
- Now take particular care to get a good seal between the foil and the outside of the baking dish. Good.
- Set the dish on a middle shelf in the oven, and let it bake for 30 minutes at 400 F / 200 C. Then drop the temperature to 350F / 180C, and bake the gammon for another 90 minutes.
- And, right now, it’s time for the sweet potatoes to go into the oven on their shelf beneath the gammon. They’re going to bake there until the glazed gammon comes out of the oven. At that point, the potatoes’ citrusy sauce will have thickened to a syrupy consistency, and they’ll nearly be ready for serving — all they need is a final, gentle stirring.
- While the gammon and the sweet potatoes are baking, you’ll have plenty of time to make its hot and spicy glaze.
Making the gammon’s hot and spicy glaze
- This is really easy. Add all the ingredients to your food processor and blitz until you have a smooth paste. That’s it — your glaze is ready to meet the gammon.
Glazing the gammon, and finishing its cooking
- Once the gammon has baked for its two hours, remove the dish from the oven and take off the foil. Turn the oven back to 400 F / 200 C — ready for your glazed gammon.
- Now use a large sieve to drain off — and keep — all the juices from the baking dish. That should give you about 1 ½ cups of those very important juices — remember, they’re the flavor-packed stock for your cranberry sauce. The veg has now done its job and can be discarded.
- Set the gammon on a plate, and let it cool for about ten minutes — so it’s cool enough for you to cut away the netting.
- Once the netting’s removed, it’s time to peel off the gammon’s rind. So, in one corner of the rind, use a sharp knife to make a small cut between the rind and the fat beneath it. Make the cut as close to the underside of the rind as you can. You’re aiming to make a small, corner flap of rind that you can easily grip, and then gently pull the whole rind away from its underlying layer of fat.
- Use a sharp knife to make a series of criss-cross cuts right through the layer of fat. Only cut through the fat, and not into the meat below. I do this in two stages — making parallel cuts in one direction, followed by a second set of cuts at right-angles to the first. Space the cuts about 1/3 inch apart so that you create a diamond pattern all over the fat.
- Set the patterned gammon back into the now-empty baking dish, and spoon your glaze all over the top and sides of the gammon.
- You want as much glaze as possible to fill your diamond-pattern cuts, but take care not to break that pattern apart as you spoon in the glaze. Some glaze will likely run off the sides, that’s fine — leave it where it settles around the gammon — just get as much glaze as you can onto the gammon.
- Return the glazed gammon to a high shelf in your 400 F / 200 C oven, and let it bake there — uncovered — for about 30 minutes. After 15 minutes, baste the gammon thoroughly with the glaze from the bottom of its baking dish.
- You’re aiming for the glaze to darken and start to form a sticky, softish crust on the gammon. It might take a little longer than 30 minutes for that to happen, so let the gammon bake for another 5 minutes or so until it does. But, bear in mind that you’re not looking for a crisped crust, just one that’s softish and sticky. Good — your gammon’s done. And so are the sweet potatoes.
- So, turn off the oven, and transfer the gammon to a carving board — ready for being carved in about ten minutes. The bubbling sweet potatoes can stay in the cooling oven until you’re ready to serve them.
Making the cranberry sauce
- You can make this as soon as the glazed gammon has gone into your oven. And it’s really easy.
- Pour all the conserved gammon juices into a saucepan set on a high heat. As soon as it comes to the boil, drop the heat to low and stir in the cranberries. Let the sauce simmer at a gentle bubble — and I mean gentle — for 10 minutes with a couple of stirs.
- Now use a potato masher to give the cranberries just enough of a mashing to barely break them apart.
- Let the sauce simmer gently for another 15 minutes or so, until it has reduced to a jammy consistency. Done. You can leave it on a very low heat so that it just stays warm, and ready for serving in a pretty jug or sauce boat.
Cooking the baby green cabbage, cooking the mini corn cobs
- Set a big skillet on a high heat and add the butter and oil. As soon as the buttery oil starts foaming, add the halved cabbage — cut-side down — in a single, evenly spaced layer.
- Drop the heat to medium-high, and let the cabbage sizzle away for two minutes. You’re aiming here to give the cabbage a little hot-and-fast coloring char on the cut sides — two minutes should do the trick. Now drop the heat to low-medium and let the cabbage gently cook for another three minutes. Done.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cabbage to a warmed dish ready for serving — leaving as much of the buttery oil as you can in the skillet.
- The corn gets pretty much the same treatment as the cabbage — hot-and-fast in that big skillet.
- So, set the skillet back on a high heat, and add a little more butter if, like me, you think it’s needed. As soon as the buttery oil starts foaming, add the corn cobs in a single, evenly spaced layer, and drop the heat to medium. (You might need to do this in two batches.)
- What you’re looking to do is give the cobs a pair of dark-golden, lengthwise stripes on opposite sides.
- So, keep the heat on medium, and let the cobs sizzle away until they get their first stripe. That’ll take about three minutes. Then turn them, and let them sizzle again on that medium heat until they get their second, opposite stripe. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the double-striped cobs to a warmed serving dish.
And I’m perfectly happy to present the gammon on the same, large board on which I carve it — at the table — into slices about ¼-inch thick.