What makes for a great Christmas ham? Here, we walk you through ham dos and don'ts and what to look out for when making this very important Christmas meal decision.
Alongside bowls of fresh prawns, crimson coloured cherries, and something crisp and chilled to drink – ham is the centrepiece of most Australian Christmas lunches.
Studded with cloves, or glazed with honey and pineapple, ham is a delicious part of the Christmas feast – and can be a tasty leftover snack in the summer days that follow.
Come December, there are scores on show to buy for the big day, so it’s easy to end up with a leg of ham that’s a little substandard. Even in the chaos of Christmas shoppers, there are a few quick tricks to establishing whether your pork is first-rate, and whether it will have the juicy sweetness or subtle smokiness you really prefer.
Here are our dos and don’ts when it comes to picking your Christmas ham.
Do: Ask questions
Where possible – it’s good to get a few ham facts over the counter if you can. The life and times of your pig will give away a great deal about its flavour. In this case, size matters and age is more than just a number. For example, older pigs will be tougher in texture, while younger pigs will have less zest.
Do: Try a slice
Naturally, a taste test will be your best measure of what’s to come with a leg of ham. If you can sample a slice, look for a balanced cure, a dense, meaty texture, and a softly smoky flavour. Steer clear of rubbery meat, or anything that’s overly smoked and seasoned with embers.
Don’t: Overlook overcooked
If time is scarce and you do have to make a choice without tasting, look for smooth even skin and even colouring. Test the ham for freshness by gently poking it - a soft leg of ham with a little bounce is best.
An uneven rind is a sign of dryness, so search for a ham with smooth exterior and no bubbles. Check the knuckle too – if it’s sunken, this is a pretty good indicator that your ham is overcooked.
Do: Good fat
All things in moderation: good muscle tone and fat throughout the meat will mean a tastier slice of ham.
Do: Stay local
Support Australian farmers by selecting Australian pork. Your leg of ham won’t have travelled too far and will have been made recently. Ideally, the ham on your Christmas table should be no more than 1 month old. With Australian pork, you’ll be opting for freshness and of course – greater quality.