Ham Cooked in Coca Cola

As you can probably tell, I’m into American food at the moment; perhaps the pulled pork with Boston baked beans or wedge salad with blue cheese dressing gave it away? Cooking ham in coca-cola is one of those ideas that sounds just outrageous but is actually brilliant. I’ve cooked it many times now. The cola imparts, as you would expect, a sweet and subtly spiced flavour to the salty ham and I finished it with a sticky glaze of molasses, mustard and rum, which melted into a glistening varnish.

While pondering how to eat it (it takes 2.5 hours to cook, I pondered a lot), my thoughts inched ever closer to the idea of a towering sandwich; a Man vs. Food style beast topped with deep-fried pickles and hot sauce. Yes, deep-fried pickles. I first saw this genius idea on Homesick Texan, a blog partly responsible for this American food phase. Pickles? Good. Deep-fried stuff? Gooood. Together? BOOM! I decided on a combo of traditional dill pickled cucumbers (I always use the Krakus brand since my friend’s Polish mother recommended them – so crisp), pickled chillies and those sweet little silverskin pickled onions which are totally under-rated. A crunchy cracker base (base, base, base) mixture surrounds juicy, crisp pickle. They made an excellent snack and a serious sandwich garnish that says I Mean Business.

The ham was easily torn apart with frantic fingers and stuffed, chunk on juicy chunk into a roll. We topped each with a selection of the pickles and sauce made with 50% home-made hot sauce and 50% ketchup. Oh my. This is what Sundays are all about.

Ham Cooked in Coca Cola with a Molasses Glaze

1 x 2kg ham. Mine was was just over this weight (I used a boneless one; a bone will add more flavour but you need to account for the weight)
1 x 2 litre bottle full-sugar coca cola
1 white onion, peeled and cut in half

For the glaze

100ml molasses
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons dark rum (or whisky)

Put the ham in a large pan, skin side down. Cover it with the cola and add the onion. Bring to the boil then reduce to a good simmer. Put a lid on, but not tightly; rest it so you have a teeny gap at one side. Cook for 2.5 hours (or just under if your ham is exactly 2kg).

When the ham is nearly finished cooking, preheat the oven to gas 7/210C

When the cooking time is up, drain the ham, put it in a dish then remove the skin so that you are left with a thin layer of fat. Score the fat into a criss-cross diamond pattern. Mix the glaze ingredients together well and brush the glaze all over the ham. Push a clove into the points of each diamond. Cook it for 5 minutes, then brush again with the remaining glaze. Cook for a further 5 minutes then remove the ham from the oven and allow it to cool.

Deep-fried pickles

5 good sized Krakus brand pickled cucumbers, cut into inch-thick slices
6 pickled chillies
6 silverskin pickled onions

1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 pack Matzo crackers (about 75g. Matzo are very similar to the ‘Saltines’ that Homesick Texan uses)
1 scant teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper

Vegetable or groundnut oil, for deep-frying

Preheat the oven to Gas1/140C

Cover a plate with flour and sprinkle with pepper and paprika. In a bowl, mix the egg and buttermilk. Put the crackers in a food processor and pulse to crumbs; spread this mixture on another plate. Dip each pickle first in the flour, then the egg, then toss about in the crackers. Set aside. Heat your oil for deep frying in a sturdy pan until it shimmers. You can test if it is ready but putting a little piece of bread in – if that starts to properly sizzle and fry, you’re good to go.

Fry the pickles in small batches; do not crowd the pan. Put the cooked pickles on a plate lined with a couple of sheets of kitchen paper and put in the oven to keep warm while you cook the rest.

Glazed Ham

Olive Magazine asked me to ‘challenge Gordon’ in their December issue, with a Christmas recipe of my choosing; I went for the glazed ham. A reader and their mates then tested both his recipe and mine and decided on a winner.

The idea of a straight ‘glaze-off’ seemed a bit dull and predictable so I decided to mix things up by using the cola method, which I’ve tried before and loved. The ham is covered and bubbled in the syrupy liquor, resulting in a ham infused with an addictive spicy caramel sweetness, helped along a bit by a couple of star anise and the humble onion. I kept the glaze simple with marmalade (zesty bits essential) and teeny hints of ginger and cinnamon. The cola makes the edges caramelise to a sticky, tooth-tacky sheen . And that’s what it’s all about. I burnt my fingers several times trying to pull off the edge bits.

It was a dead heat between mine and Ramsay’s ham, by the way. I can’t say I wasn’t hugely relieved not to lose. I bet he’s quaking in his sweary little boots…

Sweet and Spiced Glazed Ham

1 x 2kg mild-cure gammon
1 x 2litre bottle of cola
1 onion, peeled and halved
2 star anise

For the glaze

Cloves, for studding
225g marmalade (with zesty bits if possible)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Bring the gammon up to room temperature, then put it in a large pan, skin side down, add the onion and star anise and cover with the cola. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and rest the lid on top so that it is not fully sealed. Let bubble for about 2 1/4 hours.

Discard the cooking liquid, remove the ham to a plate and allow to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to gas 7/210 C. Remove the skin from the ham, leaving a thin layer of fat. Score the fat in a diamond pattern and push a clove into the point of each diamond.

To make the glaze, put all the ingredients into a pan and let it bubble up to the boil then simmer for a few minutes until syrupy.

Brush the glaze all over the ham and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the ham, brush on some more glaze and bake for a further 10 minutes. If you do this more often then the outside will be even stickier. If you want to let the ham cool and then glaze it the next day, it will need longer in the oven – about 30 to 40 minutes.

Ham Hock Stock

It’s winter, it’s cold and so I crave the pie – all the time. Deep filled, meaty pie with buttery pastry. Pure comfort food. First I toyed with the idea of using lamb shanks in a pie, all St. John style with the bones sticking out the top but I finally decided on a cheap as chips ham hock filling.

Smoked Ham Hock Pie Recipe

(I would advise soaking the hock for at least a few hours or overnight before discarding the water and cooking as below)

1 smoked ham hock
1 carrot
10 peppercorns
1 stick celery
1 large onion, peeled and halved plus 1 small one finely chopped, for the filling
4 bay leaves, torn
1 large leek, finely shredded
1 clove garlic
1 standard pack shortcrust pastry (sorry, don’t know the weight but it’s enough to cover the top of your pie dish..)
1 egg, beaten


425ml milk
8 black pepper corns
1 bay leaf
40g butter
20g plain flour
Salt and pepper
A pinch of mace or nutmeg
A large handful cheddar cheese

– Put the hock, halved onion, carrot, celery, bay leaves and peppercorns in a large pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil then simmer for 2-4 hours, until the meat is falling off the bone.
– Remove the ham and set aside, strain the liquor and reserve for later use.
– Cook the leeks and onion gently in butter until soft – about 10 minutes, then add the garlic for a further 3-5 minutes. Meanwhile, make the bechamel.
– Put the milk, bay leaf, mace or nutmeg and peppercorns into a pan and bring slowly up to simmering point.
– Remove from the heat and strain the milk into a jug.
– In a clean pan, melt the butter gently, add the flour and stir to a paste. Add a little milk at a time, stirring to make sure all is incorporated.
– Start adding larger quantities, as if you are making mayonnaise, stirring with a whisk.
– When the lumps are gone, add the cheese and whisk again until smooth.
– Remove the meat from the hock, taking care to avoid the fattiest bits and combine with the leek mixture and the bechamel. Transfer to a pie dish. Roll out the pastry to desired thickness (I dunno, 1cm?) and top the pie with it. Brush with beaten egg.
– Bake at 190°C/ 375°F/Gas 5 for about an hour until golden brown.