Gammon with Navy Beans

gammon with white beans

Gammon is the name for pork which has been cured by salting or brining – it can also be smoked. Meat was traditionally salted and smoked  to make it last longer, but with the advent of refrigeration, this is no longer necessary. However, since salt and smoke impart additional flavour, the curing process has continued. Essentially, the difference between gammon and ham, is that ham is cured and ready to eat, whereas gammon is cured, but requires cooking before eating. Gammon, like the word ham, comes from the French jambon, which in turn comes from the Late Latin word gamba, meaning leg (note the shape of Spanish gambas, the next time you eat tapas).

gammon soaking

Gammon is often more expensive than uncooked pork, but gammon knuckles are relatively unpopular and can be had cheap from a good butcher. Mine sells them for about £3.60, regardless of size. I’d intended to buy a smoked knuckle, but the unsmoked were double the size (about 2Kg), so I changed my mind. It’s customary to soak gammon overnight before cooking to remove some of the salt. When cooking gammon, it’s highly unlikely that you will require any additional salt.

Gammon with Navy Beans recipe (serves 4):

1 gammon knuckle (soaked overnight)
1 pig trotter (cut in two)
250g dried navy beans (soaked overnight) or a tin of the same
2 large onions (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (peeled and bruised)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
2 sticks of celery (chopped)
2 carrots (chopped)
a few sprigs of thyme
10 black peppercorns
1 teaspoonful smoked pimentón picante de la vera
1 teaspoonful smoked pimentón dulce de la vera
3 bay leaves
red wine vinegar
2 pints water
Extra virgin olive oil (for frying)

navy beans

Soak the gammon and the beans overnight before cooking.


In a large cast iron casserole, fry one of the onions (save the other for later) until it goes translucent, then stir in the celery, carrot and bruised garlic (the chopped garlic goes in later too).

ham trotter

Add the gammon and a pig’s trotter.

pig trotter

I got the butcher to chop my trotter in half.

ham and beans

The beans go in now too, along with the peppercorns, thyme and bay leaves. If using canned beans, it might be best to add them later – at the cooked gammon chopping up stage.

gammon cooking

Pour on two pints of water, bring to a simmer, put the lid on and cook gently for three hours, or until the gammon is quite tender and falling off the bone.

cooked ham

Remove the gammon and trotter, allow them to cool a little and skim off any fat and scum from the cooking liquid.

chopped gammon

When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the knuckle and trotter, chop it up and return it to the pot. You can use the gammon bone, skin and trotter for making stock – it’s surprising how much gelatine it will still contain. I put mine into a pressure cooker with stock vegetables, herbs, seasoning and water and got 3 pints of solid jelly stock (when cooled).

onion and pimentón

Meanwhile, fry the remaining chopped onion, until translucent, stir in the chopped garlic and both types of pimentón de la vera. Mix this into the gammon and beans with a splash of red wine vinegar.


Let the ham and beans bubble away gently for another hour. Check the seasoning before serving with fresh sourdough bread or toast rubbed with raw garlic.

I recommend a robust red wine, such as Hereford Tempranillo from Argentina, to go with the dish.

About Mad Dog
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14 Responses to Gammon with Navy Beans

  1. jmcheney says:

    I have cooked smoked knuckles in my heaarty winter bean & lentil soups for years. I’ve never cooked trotters. My local grocery offers them now, but it would be hard, hard, picturing of all those colorful characters at The Farmy trotting here & there on theirs.

    • Mad Dog says:

      I know what you mean Judith, but those trotters are on the same leg as the knuckle and Cecilia runs the Farmy to be self sustaining – the plonkers do get sold as meat. I’m of the same mind as Fergus Henderson, who says if you respect the pig, you should eat all of it.
      I love Cecilia’s philosophy too – all her animals are loved and have happy lives, unlike those who are factory farmed.

      • jmcheney says:

        Yes, you are right. The knuckle is just above the trotter. And I do agree with Celi, & now that I’ve followed your link to him, Fergus Henderson as well. And I would eat your dish in a heartbeat & relish it.

  2. Yes. I want some.

  3. Nadia says:

    Pity we cannot readily find gammon here. Love this recipe, perfect simple comfort food like grandmothers used to make.

  4. This is such a favourite in our house. Love the idea of adding a trotter but in England I have to get in quick as they don’t have many each week and a very lovely Chinese family often get in and buy them all for a wonderful dish they make!

    • Mad Dog says:

      It’s amazing really, when you consider that there are 4 per pig and most people don’t have the slightest interest in them, but I don’t doubt the scarcity on the South Coast. It’s only recently that they have reappeared in London supermarkets! If people only knew how they imparted a thick and delicious stickiness to soups and stews…

  5. Karen says:

    Thanks for explaining the difference between gammon and ham…I just thought they were the same.

  6. Ron says:

    MD, very educational. We eat a lot of pork here and salt cured pork knuckle (fläsklägg) is always available at the market. Here we boil it with onion, carrot and bay leaf for hours. It’s then served over a root mash. I must say I like the sounds of your recipe better. I’ll give it a try with our pork knuckle.

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