Salt-Baked Ham with Orange & Thyme

STORY & PHOTOS BY LUISA BRIMBLE • RECIPE WRITTEN BELOW BY SARAH GLOVER

 

In Partnership with Maloneys Grocer

 

"I never knew oranges are a symbol of gift giving - the ‘sunshine’ fruit in the midst of winter."

 

On the weekend I had every intention to write Sarah’s story about how she came to create a recipe for Salt-baked Ham with Orange and Thyme. So we had a chat over the phone and because my mind sometimes wanders when we talk I only managed to note down three things: 'Little Women,' 'gift,' and 'oranges'. Ok so that meant nothing to me, later on, but on a whim I googled 'Little Women oranges.' Lo and behold! I found some fascinating folklore about popular fruit and vegetables in America.

I never knew oranges are a symbol of gift giving - the ‘sunshine’ fruit in the midst of winter.  In the film version of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, which opened on Christmas day of 1994, young Amy could be seen treasuring her Christmas orange in the depths of hard times for the March women. It was also intriguing to read that during the Great Depression money was tight and many families could not afford to buy gifts. It was a treat, a luxury even for the children to receive lollies, nuts, gifts and small tangerines in their Christmas stockings. 

It boggles me that Sarah sometimes holds back these stories; she may feel it’s not important to share, but it forms part of what influenced this lady when she was growing up and how she came to crave adventures like those of the Little Women and Anne of Green Gables. The memories combined with Sarah's knowledge of food, being that pairing fruit with fatty meats and experimenting old traditions of cooking methods makes for an interesting story and a recipe perfect for entertaining outdoors.

 

INGREDIENTS

1 leg of ham approximately 5kg
6kg table salt
1 orange sliced
1 bunch of fresh thyme
soft metal wire or trussing string
metal cutters
metal dish preferable cast iron

 

DIRECTIONS

This recipe was cooked over hot coals or you can also use wood, I used Japanese coals. Light your coals about 30 minutes before you want to cook the ham. 

Pour the salt into a large bowl, add water until it is just wet to touch, you want it to feel like you're patting a wet sand over the ham. Slice open the leg by the bone, add the orange and thyme then use the wire to tie it together piercing the skin; this will infuse into the meat as it slowly cooks away.

Add half the salt to the bottom of a metal dish place the stuffed ham on top, pour the remaining salt and pat until all the meat is covered, and no air can escape.

Put the salty ham over the hot coals, and add some of the coals on top (with tongs or a shovel). The salt will go hard; the inside will steam and cook the ham. It will take about 2 hours. You don’t want a flame, or it will just burn the bottom and top and not cook the ham evenly.  It should be sitting at around 200ºc.

While this is cooking, prepare all the other trimmings. Creamed potatoes,  grape and mint sauce and the Witlof salad.

Once the salt has gone hard and you can smell the ham tasting amazing it is ready. Allow to rest away from the heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours; this will continue to cook. Resting the ham makes the meat tender and juicy. Crack the salt and remove the meat, let it rest for another 10 minutes before slicing.

Feeds 10 - 12 people. Cooking time: 3.5 - 4 hours (including resting time)

 

SERVING SUGGESTION

Serve the sliced ham on a bed of chopped up parsley leaves. I also grilled 6 oranges cut in halves which can be squeezed on top of the ham when you serve it. Along with the Grapes & Mint Sauce.