Environment, Social Policies, Economics

Christmas Eve get that Gammon cooked

THE GAMMON: To cook a traditional Gammon, you require one.

For most that is beyond means and so we buy what is called a Gammon, which maybe anatomically correct, but is still not a traditionally cured gammon, gammon.

In-fact, from experience the preparation and cooking of a gammon can be quite complicated, far more than that damned turkey still defrosting, and now back in the fridge, as the kitchen and cooker warms up.

There are two types of gammon smoked and unsmoked. Should you get the opportunity to eat a traditionally cured Gammon gammon and compare against what is bought ready wrapped from a supermarket, the difference would be obvious.

So; to simplify the system, it is best to just buy a Gammon, not a Gammon, Gammon the price difference will be a clear indicator of what you are purchasing. Which leaves you with Smoked or unsmoked. That will be down to taste and experience. Best not to buy a frozen ready to cook one.

A Gammon is a leg or part leg of pork that has been cured in salt, dry or wet. Dry cure will also be more expensive than brined. The formulas for cooking a gammon are endless, it works out at good value for money, and if nothing else, can be cooked and served both hot, cold and sliced for sandwiches at any time of the year.

There is plenty of opportunity, throughout the year to experiment and find your own acquired taste. Smoked is saltier than unsmoked, in the same way, as with bacon rashers. Some producers and retailers give you no option, other than to roast the joint, but even unsmoked can be acrid and very salty cooked in this fashion. But again it is down to personal preference, do not believe however due to directions saying roast it, you have too. It is possible should a milder less salt content be required to boil the joint. In terms of cooking times what exists on the wrapper as a roasting time is accurate when boiling.

For a traditional flavour, aromats are added to the water, an onion studded with cloves and a Bay leaf. However, to acquire Bay Leaf and cloves depends if such items are available in the cupboard. Do not unless, the Gammon joint is to be the centre piece of the meal, buy these aromats, whilst they make a difference it is not the end of the world, they can be added to the store cupboard at a later date. If you are lucky, you may find a neighbour with a Bay Tree. A branch cut from the bush in the height of summer when the essential oils are at their best, can be taken with permission and dried for the winter, either by air drying or putting into a cooling oven.

Bay has another use as do other herbs and spices. Fresh leaves of Sweet Bay (Laurus nobilis) this same flavouring can be simmered in oil or lard and infused; after an hour use as a rub for aches and pains, but not on inflamed or broken skin.

If you try Bay as a flavour and like it, whilst expensive when bought as a trained specimen, they can be bought at a reasonable price untrained and are a nice addition as an evergreen to the garden.

Once your Gammon is cooked, it can be eaten hot; maybe another option on Christmas Eve, nice with tinned sweetcorn and jacket potato. Simple, and easy the best way if cooking the full on meal tomorrow and easy. Plus, ready for Boxing day and pickles.


December 23rd, 2019.

It is nearly here, cooking the Christmas dinner maybe for the first time or maybe home alone for the first time. And whilst what is within this page can apply to any frozen meats or poultry, the TURKEY represents some sort of challenge and usually an unexpected one.

That is the issue with Christmas dinner, even for the experienced cook. Whilst everything, when cooking; is down to planning and timing. “The spirit of good cheer “can leave one on Christmas morning with a hangover, or that first Bucks Fizz of the morning as a stiffener, for the day ahead, (special occasion that it is) can seriously dull the senses.

Problem one, starts way before the event, and you may not even realise it at the time. It does not matter whether you own a mansion probably meaning money is no object, a three bed where money is tight, or as a singleton.

We all over spend at Christmas on food and booze if we can. But that larger than normal roast will inevitably exceed the capacity of your fridge, if you buy in fresh as late as Christmas Eve, but limits your freezer space if frozen. And frozen there is absolutely no way you can squash it into a corner. The only other option is to buy it no later than 23rd of December, struggle with the traffic, the queues, ending up with a bird far bigger than you need.

The supermarket bought joint usually comes with instructions on how long to defrost, cook and the temperatures, none suggest going to the supermarket with a tape measure! This of course would be the perfect solution. But first before entering the supermarket mania, it is necessary to measure your freezer drawer, the height and width of your fridge shelving! And how strong is your back?

Even climate change comes into its own. With occasional exception December in years past was a cold month, frosty nights and mornings, reliable temperatures of at least 0 or -1 degrees. Not anymore, therefore putting the turkey in the garage on the first day of defrosting or for the duration of the defrosting process, now comes with dangers.

This was a procedure adopted by many, it does mean however securing the garage door, returning to the beast, the following day to find the cat has spent the night gnawing through plastic and meat, to its hearts delight, is not uncommon. (Well in the compilers case at least) Not exactly, hygiene free by all accounts, but you are going to cook that bird, irrelevant of it not being pristine poultry and gnawed by the cat! it is the only one you have got!

The cat will be forgiven, and get its Xmas portion, even if its usual feeding time is somewhat delayed, which serves it right!

Because the first delay of the day occurs; removing a portion of turkey, to cleanse the area, and screaming, at whoever is available to listen for at least twenty minutes. (A sherry at this juncture may assist) or manic laughter.

So, you have struggled from the shop to house, struggled with fridge and freezer capacity and you (Meleagris gallopavo f. domestica) Is oblivious to the ensuing havoc, it is already causing.

Has it ended? No; this is just the start especially for the newbies. Everything you buy is bigger, the quantities are bigger, and the Turkey certainly is (of course it is a silly idea to take a tape measure to the supermarket) whilst Meleagris is malingering in a defrosting state. Having negotiated the fridge shelving, it cannot sit on the shelf alone, a receptacle is required to collect the defrosting water which immediately increases the amount of space required in the fridge! And ultimately the oven.

Again, irrelevant whether fresh or frozen size matters. So, before you heat up mince pies, cook sausage rolls and that damned bird gets anywhere close to warmth, size up the shelves in the oven and the roasting pan you aim to cook the bird in. To assume, that what kitchenware and utensils you use for a Sunday lunch on a normal day will work, today of all days is a myth.

And once you have literally had a cold run, with the turkey in the oven, you need to visualize what else needs to be cooked in that oven. And a partner, (if you have one) will need to be sent back out into the affray, to purchase a larger roasting tin, if nothing else. But with that larger roasting tin will the roast potatoes, parsnips, pigs in blankets, plus that (not truly thinking) to tired and exhausted, purchase that seemed like a good idea at the time; a fancy extra, the supermarket tempted you, to buy: fit around, that roasting tin you did not think of in the first place or felt a need three weeks ago to buy.

Can, tha obsure purchase be saved for another day? Is it freezer safe? Well most likely and at least the turkey is out of the freezer.

Now, please turn away vegetarians and vegans, this is not for your eyes or ears., but whilst it is to late now to change the menu of many, it being 24th December maybe some will, considering the faff associate with the Christmas dinner consider your opinions valid.

To others pleasure and delight, and whilst frozen chickens do not seem to come with them these days, in a turkey, lurking in its depths are its frozen giblets) Still rock hard, inside the bird like a brick. And it is impossible to extract this bag of entrails until the bird is well on its way to a defrosted another reason why defrosting in plenty of time, is a wise move, and actually essential.

It is safe at the early stages of a defrost to keep the turkey out of the fridge to assist the process, the problem again is you need to keep that space in the fridge for another 24 hours. But where do you put it?, it will not and ever should be microwaved and is unlikely to fit anyway. You cannot put it in the oven you will need that Christmas eve for other essential cook offs. In a small house, with a small kitchen the only option is on a worksurface.! The total logistics of a Christmas dinner even for two, continues.

Even having budgeted so carefully, the looming thought of more on the overdraft or spending more on the credit card, concerns. But this is not the season to dwell on the macabre, “Tis the season to be jolly” there will be enough lack of sleep over the next few days, without an additional reason.

There are always options, becoming vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan next year or book in with the parents and in-Laws. And throw them into disarray next Christmas by pronouncing your new diets. Or stay at home with your new-found convictions, at least you will know what you are doing.

The intention was to get a take away tonight? But have you not just spent that on Kitchenalia required but once a year? Buying too much food in is a problem, not just the Roast but the vegetables. And it is difficult for the Newbies to gauge quantities, obviously less is better but you want to make an impact with the guests, you want to prove to yourself and the family you have the process sorted, offering up more than necessary.

It is not impossible nor mean to count out what you need today for tomorrow. Then to be on the safe side add a portion. Potatoes 1 and a half per person (Three halves), 1 parsnip halved per person, 5/6 Brussels, per person, cauliflower florets, broccoli 3 florets per person, carrots 5/6 slices per person. Prepare all tonight Christmas Eve before (as mentioned a sleepless night, ahead do not make it worse). Pushing just a little harder the night before the day, will ensue a smoother transition. And hoping that on this occasion puddings are shop bought.

WELCOME TO MY FRIDGE FREEZER This? all for a singleton I here you cry? Whilst caring, it does not matter what size or capacity at Christmas it is not enough. As with the turkey defrost, out buildings, garages, and sheds are required. And whilst marauding cats have their limits, keeping fresh produce cool enhances its shelf life. Plastic or no plastic? Having tackled a Dr, whose thing is waste management there is in some cases a valid reason to wrap. Broccoli is one. Yet whilst most of the vegetables that are eaten on a traditional Christmas dinner are seasonal, broccoli originates from the Mediterranean, whilst now grown extensively in Great Britain but is not as hardy as Cauliflower and the plastic wrapping denotes that, Cauliflower really does not need plastic bags at all. More another day) So here we all are a few more hours for most still working till the end of Christmas Eve, when a big sigh of relief permeates through the country. There is no point now, if you have forgotten it, it is to late, now for the fun.


An encroaching brassica

And there, if proof were needed the brocoli has crept into the space required for the defrosting turkey, at present that bird, is in a cool kitchen on the counter top, until the nibbles and mince pies are cooked.

Waste not want not -NEW YEARS DAY FRIDGE Use and Sell by

Including my daughter (but she may have improved, since we last had a debacle on this topic. Use and sell by dates. May advice be offered? Use common sense, plus all the other senses given.

The compilers fridge picture from Christmas Eve, leaves one aware that some would consider it an extravagance for one person. But spot the difference between these two pictures, and maybe forgiveness should be considered.

The turkey has gone, what was not eaten has been frozen or souped, the Gammon made many sandwiches plus the stock was made into a hearty split pea soup. The vegetables are sound, and those items still in the fridge have until 6th of January to be consumed.

Milk is a constant issue, a good friend of mine worked for and delivered dairy produce and advised me, that if milk is kept at a constant temperature, it does not turn. Which in the case of this fridge, happened to be yesterday 31st Jan.

Yet a “Cock-up on the catering front” occurred, with the two, four-pint bottles. Having spent sometime both in catering and four years with Waitrose; where stock rotations are a must. The order was wrong. Drinking the use by of the 31st, prior to the use by of 28th December. Do not be deterred,  that  bottle has been opened, checked by smell and taste and for now it is fine.

What should be done now?, use it make a rice pudding, custard anything.

However, from experience it will go for a day or two yet and be drinkable in copious amounts of tea. Therefore, please just check, taste, look, we were all  given our senses for a reason.

This spot the difference time