Recipes for ham and pickled cabbage | Nigel Slater (2024)

There are three things I remember about my gran’s house: the smell of coal dust from the open fires; the freezing cold outside loo; and the slow and peaceful bubble of a ham cooking on the black-leaded kitchen range. Even now, half a century later, I think of her whenever I boil a piece of ham, its fat slowly turning to quivering jelly, the meat puttering away in an aromatic bath of water with onion and carrot, bay leaves and peppercorns (I’m pretty sure she popped a clove or three in there, too). It’s a favourite dinner I cook all too rarely, despite every mouthful coming with deep affection and a ladle’s worth of memories.

My gran, Lily, served her ham in thin slices with some of its broth and, always, a dish of pickled beetroot. I offer mine in a similar way, but with a tangle of pickled cabbage whose crunchy, sweet-sour addition I prefer to beetroot, and a bowl of fried jerusalem artichokes, first steamed for softness then fried with parsley and lemon to crisp the edges. I can’t imagine my gran ever saw (or heard of) a jerusalem artichoke, but they do have an affinity with ham.

Neither would she have upended a bottle of cider into the poaching liquid, but I do regularly and I sometimes include an apple, too. Both sweeten the cooking liquor, which thankfully is no longer as salty as it was in years gone by. I always add a ladle of it – scented with juniper, onion and bay – to each plate.

Ham with juniper and cider, fried artichokes

I buy a piece of unsmoked ham, about 1kg in weight, tied and ready for the pot. (Thank goodness days of soaking a piece of ham before boiling are over.) It feeds four but leaves little for later, so it might be worth buying a bigger piece and increasing the cooking time accordingly.
Serves 4

For the ham:
onion 1, large
boiling ham 1 x 1kg piece
apples 2, medium
carrots 4, small
celery 1 rib
parsley stalks a handful
bay leaves 3
peppercorns 8
juniper berries 6
still cider 1 litre

For the artichokes:
jerusalem artichokes 500g
butter 30g
olive oil 2 tbsp
parsley leaves 25g (a good handful)
lemon 1

Peel the onion, slice it in half and place in a large, deep saucepan with the ham. Slice the apples in half and add to the pan. Trim and scrub the carrots, cut the celery stalk in half and add to the pan. Add the parsley stalks, bay leaves, black peppercorns and juniper berries to the pan, then pour in the cider and 1 litre of water. The ham may not be entirely submerged in liquid – no matter – it will partially cook in its own steam, and you can turn it over during cooking.

Bring the ham to the boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer, partially cover with a lid and leave to cook for 1 hour. Turn the ham over halfway through cooking. Remove from the heat and set aside to rest for 10-15 minutes while you fry the artichokes.

For the artichokes, peel them as best you can (they are knobbly and not the easiest to peel), then place them in a steamer basket or colander over a pan of hot water, cover tightly with a lid and steam for 10-15 minutes until tender to the point of a knife. Remove from the heat and halve each artichoke lengthways.

Warm the butter and oil in a shallow pan over a moderate heat. As it starts to bubble, add the artichokes, cut side down and leave for 5 or 6 minutes to brown lightly. Meanwhile, chop the parsley and finely grate the lemon. Turn the artichokes on to their backs, let them cook for a few minutes longer, then add the parsley and lemon, and a grinding of salt and black pepper.

Remove the ham from its liquor and slice thinly. Serve with the artichokes and the red cabbage and spoonfuls of its own apple-scented cooking liquor.

Pickled red cabbage and ginger

Recipes for ham and pickled cabbage | Nigel Slater (1)

This makes more than you will need for the ham, but it feels pointless making a small quantity when it is so useful to have around. The glowing accompaniment comes out in our house with everything from bread and cheese to sushi. While this recipe has the traditional additions of mustard seeds and allspice, I introduce an element of heat with sliced ginger root.
Makes 2 x 750 ml storage jars

cider vinegar 480ml
malt vinegar 180ml
water 480ml
black peppercorns 15
allspice 12
mustard seeds 2 tsp
chilli flakes ½ tsp
sugar 2 tbsp
sea salt flakes 2 tbsp
ginger 65g
shallots 4 small
red cabbage 600g

Sterilise your storage jars. Bring the kettle to the boil, then pour the water into the storage jars and leave for 2 minutes before emptying.

Put the cider and malt vinegars, water, peppercorns, allspice, mustard seeds, chilli flakes, sugar and salt into a stainless-steel saucepan and bring to the boil. Peel and finely slice the ginger (you should almost be able to see through it), then add it to the pan with the sliced shallots and boil for 2 minutes.

Shred the red cabbage – I like mine roughly the width of a pencil, but with some sliced more finely – and place it in a heat-proof mixing bowl. Pour the hot pickling liquor over the vegetables, then toss everything together. Ladle into the storage jars, seal and allow to cool. They will keep for several weeks in the fridge.

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Recipes for ham and pickled cabbage | Nigel Slater (2024)
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