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.
6 kg table salt
1 leg of ham (about 5 kg)
1 orange, sliced
bunch of thyme
6 oranges, halved and grilled
chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
Japanese white charcoal
Soft metal wire or trussing string
Large metal dish, preferably cast iron
1: Heat your barbecue for about 30 minutes with the lid down to get the coals nice and hot. I used Japanese white charcoal, but you can use other varieties – ask your local supplier what is best for cooking.
Pour the salt into a large bowl, add enough water to make it just wet to touch – you want it to feel like you're patting wet sand over the ham. Slice open the leg by the bone, add the orange and thyme, then use a metal wire to tie it together, piercing the skin; this will infuse these beautiful flavours into the meat as it slowly cooks away.
Place half the salt on the bottom of a metal dish and put the stuffed ham on top. Pour over the remaining salt and pat until all the meat is covered, and no air can escape.
Put the salty ham on the hot coals, and place some of the coals on top (with tongs or a shovel). Leave to cook for about 2 hours. During this time the salt will go hard, steaming the ham on the inside. Keep an eye on the fire. You don’t want a flame, as it will just burn the bottom and top and won’t allow the ham to cook evenly. The temperature should be sitting around 200C.
While this is cooking, prepare all the accompaniments: the grape and mint sauce, creamed potatoes and witlof salad.
When the salt has gone completely hard and the ham is smelling amazing, it is ready. Allow it to rest away from the heat for 1–11/2 hours. It will continue to cook during this time, and the slow resting will make the ham tender and juicy. Crack the salt, remove the meat and let it rest for another 10 minutes
2: While the ham is resting, place the orange halves on a barbecue grill plate, cut-side down, and cook until nicely softened and caramelised. Slice the ham and arrange on a bed of parsley. Serve with the grape and mint sauce and sides, with the grilled orange halves for squeezing over.
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.