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 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)
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).
Add the gammon and a pig’s trotter.
I got the butcher to chop my trotter in half.
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.
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.
Remove the gammon and trotter, allow them to cool a little and skim off any fat and scum from the cooking liquid.
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).
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.