Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Christmas '08 Shennanigans

In true Yuletide tradition my mother has always prepared an entire smoked gammon leg as part of our Christmas dinner spread amongst an array of other gastronomical delights. Roast turkey with stuffing, suckling pig and at least two to three bakes and/ or casseroles as well as side dishes of roasted rosemary baby potatoes and green garden salad to go with it all. This year with my father's passing, all proceedings were toned down. Christmas was canceled according to me, the house was bare of decorations, there were no goodies - the customary rosa cookies, kull-kulls, guava cheese and coconut sweet to put on display and dole out to guests, and in fact there were no friends and family visiting! Come 22 December, my mum, sister and I jumped on a plane and headed for my Aunt Patricia's house in Pune to spend the festive season with her.
In our suitcase, to savour the spirit of December was an entire 6 kg roll of gammon, packed ever so safely, ensuring the sanctity and core of Christmas tradition prevailed.
Some may be horrified at the idea of packing marinated, smoked meat in ones suitcase. At this point I must introduce the Bangalore Pork & Ham Shop, located on M.G. Road, that is popular throughout the country for its prime cuts of pork and bi-products as compared to what is available elsewhere
Before we left for Pune we had our work cut out for us. Previous years my mother has always used a pineapple and beer marinade that infuses the smoked gammon, helping to tenderise the meat as it cooks further over the stove in a pressure cooker. This year we opted for navel oranges instead of pineapple.
All the ingredients are laid out and ready, spices: cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, garlic, orange slices, stubbies of frothing beer, orange concentrate and gammon of course!
The gammon goes into a pot on the stove for an hour and a half simmering over medium flame with all the pictured ingredients and a whole litre of Tropicana Orange juice to moisten the meat.
Trixie is going crazy, excited by the heady meaty whiffs, hoping for a chunk of meat, a bone, anything!

After cooking on the stove top we transfer it to a pressure cooker to cook for two whistles. Ah, the Indian pressure cooker a device I still have not been able to fully understand.
Sameer puts my mother's skewers to alternative employment...
He role was pivotal in the cooking of this gammon leg!
Once it was cooked, we wrapped it in about one mile of cerran wrap, then a big absorbent towel, before packing carefully into our suitcase, ready for the flight to Pune.
This is the gammon leg upon arrival in Pune, uncovered and the fat jacket layer, carefully sliced off with a good knife. We then cut diamonds into the remaining white fat layer and dotted it with cloves - picture perfect!

With all the heavy duty lifting out of the way, the 25 had rolled around the corner and it was time for presenting this baby. And you can only guess what comes next, glazing time! We opted for an Orange Glaze, using a recipe I foraged for over the internet. It made sense, was easy to follow and turned out to be fool-proof!
1/2 c. orange juice,
1/4 c. light brown sugar,
1/4 c. orange marmalade,
2 tbsp. cider vinegar,
Combine all ingredients in small saucepan, mixing well. Bring to boil, stirring. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered 15 minutes, stirring.
We had to leave the glaze on the fire for longer than suggested in the recipe however to achieve a thicker, glossier glaze that would hold onto the meat steadfast.
Once the glaze was ready we wasted no time brushing it on to the surface of the gammon. You must remember you are dealing with a highly caramelised sugary syrup that is going to harden quickly, so paint it on efficiently but make like lightening.
A word of caution, be careful of flinging the hot glaze at people around you or yourself. I managed to burn myself on my forefinger and fling some syrup at my mum in the process!
A labour of love
Penelope`, we did it !
Doing the honours of slicing the first few pieces for family at the Christmas table.
Several serving later, having relished the piggy meat, it was time to bring out the figgy pudding for some showmanship from my sister Maude and my mother.
First place the Marks & Spencer's plum pudding in a glass plate and spoon over a generous amount of brandy. Then using a steel ladle full of more brandy, Maude sets the liquor alight.

This is then carefully poured over the top of the pudding, so as the brandy runs down the pudding it is ignited by a burring bright blue flame that puts a big smile on everyone's face, kids and grown-ups included.

Served with a dollop of brandy butter, the pudding always goes down smoothly!

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