This year we’ve had to wait a little longer for Easter, thanks to the timing of the first full moon since the Spring equinox, and certainly feel ready for a moment of pause from work to focus energies on the returning clan. This festival is worthy of much feasting and celebration and here are two recipes to feed that possible influx of guests over the long Easter weekend. We have a dish for a gathering and a dish for sharing. I also challenged myself to cut down on food miles and use purely local ingredients. I’m delighted to say it was very possible, with the odd exception, and great fun unearthing some outstanding producers very close to home. I’m sure wherever you are that you’ll be able to do the same, and if necessary, find quality substitutes from an organic orchard near you!
Apple-y Ham served alongside baked bramley or cooking apples on an Oval Serving Dish. These apples were cooked separately and filled with Orchard Apple Chutney, one of Joan and Bob’s Juicy Jams, artisanal producers nearby in Thomastown.
Happily Apple-y Ham Recipe
This recipe is for a 4-5lb (around 2kg) ham. The one you see here is from a local artisan butcher and is no doubt from a local animal. This whole recipe is actually based on that important idea of going LOCAL as much as possible. For the glaze I used organic Apple Syrup and Apple Treacle from our neighbours and award-winning producers at Highbank Orchards, who are in a truly beautiful spot 10 minutes down the road.
Highbank Orchard, outside and in, who make wonderful products, all from their own organic produce: cider, syrup, treacle, balsamic apple vinegar, regular apple vinegar, apple brandy, gin…
- Set oven at 190°C.
- Get a pot that just surrounds your ham and make sure there’s room at the top for water to cover the meat. Into it put your ham and: (a) 750 ml real apple cider (not the sugary juicy stuff) (b) 1.5 - 2L water, to cover the ham (c) Black peppercorns (a tablespoon should do) (d) 1 cinnamon stick (not local!)
- Bring the ham to a boil and then turn the heat down to ensure the liquid is gently simmering. While this goes on, keep checking the heat and keep checking the water level. If the top of the ham is poking up over the liquid, put on the kettle, boil some water and pour into the pot to ensure the meat is covered. You may need to do this a couple of times.
- Meanwhile, make your glaze by combining 50 ml Apple Syrup, 1 tbsp Apple Treacle, 1/2 jar apricot jam.
- Simmer the ham for 14 minutes per pound, timed from the moment it started to boil. If you’ve never boiled a ham before, the best advice I can give you is to go out and buy a meat thermometer as it comes in handy, and helps you know when to stop boiling the ham. If you have a thermometer, insert and check for 70°C and then your ham is ready to stop boiling. As an indication if you don’t have a thermometer, it took me 1 hour and 10 minutes to get this size ham boiled.
- Transfer the meat to a baking tray and carefully remove the skin over the fat. With a sharp knife, cut your designs into the fat and then cover with your glaze. It should all be fat side up.
- Stick it all in your oven and leave for about 30 minutes - you are allowed to check – until it is a beautiful golden brown. When you’re happy with your Apple-y Ham, remove it from the oven and place on a serving platter to rest. This will be good warm or at room temperature, perfect for entertaining!
Happily Apple-y Sauce Recipe
I was so entranced with all my apple-y products, I also made a rather fine (but grown up) Happily Apple-y Sauce by throwing together:
1/4 cup (60 ml) Apple vinegar
1/4 cup (60 ml) Apple syrup
1 heaped tbsp hot Irish mustard
3/4 cup (180 ml) liquid from the boiled ham
Let this mixture boil until it reduced to a little more than half, then add a roux to thicken. Continue to simmer until it’s as thick as you like. This is quite a sharp mixture: good for grown ups but maybe not so appealing for children, so best to serve it separately.
We baked a round goat's cheese. It turns out less molten than a camembert-style cheese, but has slightly more natural sweetness, which goes beautifully with the garlic and herbs.
Here is a vegetarian and utterly moreish recipe for sharing, either on its own as a main dish or alongside Apple-y Ham, depending on the numbers you’re catering for. There are more cheese-makers producing camembert-style cheese so it is becoming easier to get hold of from local sources. While the wooden box is key to helping the cheese keep its shape, some makers, like Cooleeney Farm, supply a reusable ramekin, or you can use your own oven-proof dish to contain the melted cheese.
A whole round of camembert-style cow's or goat's cheese in its wooden box if it comes with one.
A clove of garlic, peeled and cut into thin strips lengthways
Fresh rosemary and/or thyme (optional)
A little white wine (not local!)
To serve - new potatoes, crudités, pickled cucumbers, sliced apple, crusty bread
- Take the cheese from its box and remove the wrapping. Push the cheese back into the box.
- Using a small sharp knife or cocktail stick prick evenly spaced holes across the cheese.
- Poke the strips of garlic down into the cheese and alongside some of the strips of garlic slip in a few fresh thyme leaves or a rosemary leaf, if you like these flavours.
- Replace the box lid and place on a baking tray with a lip (to catch any escaping molten cheese).
- Bake in a pre-heated oven (200 c) for 20 mins, or until hot and bubbling.
- Remove from the oven and carefully transfer to a serving dish.
- Remove the box lid and gently scrape off the top skin of the cheese, though this is edible too, try to keep as much molten cheese in the box as possible.
- Dip bread, new potatoes, crudités, pickled cucumbers, sliced apple, crusty bread or anything else you fancy into the melted cheese.
Fear not, despite my obsession with all things apple-y I haven’t forgotten chocolate. You could stuff a few additional baked apples with chocolate, or, once you’re satisfied you’ve eked our every bit of molten cheese from the ramekin, reuse it (clean!) to hold melted chocolate to dip things in. Perhaps not potatoes or pickled cucumbers this time, but how about slices of apple?
Happy and delicious holidays!