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Ham - the glory piece for every Christmas meal. Warm from the oven and glazed up in your flavour of choice, served with baby potatoes and steamed greens, it is an annual favourite.

 

Our top tips for cooking the perfect ham

Buy a free-range ham if you can, and you’ll be rewarded with extra flavour.
Remove the skin, but make sure you keep the fat underneath; this keeps the ham moist and it’s quite tasty when cooked - also adding extra flavour.

Score the fat in even diamonds all over the top. To do this, score the lines diagonally one way first, then cross them the other way. You want to lightly cut the fat without piercing through to the meat below. If you cut too deep, the diamonds of fat will come loose of the meat in the oven.

Glaze and re-glaze your ham. You need to re-glaze your ham several times throughout cooking to make sure you get the ham nice and caramelised on top.

Allow the ham to rest for 20 minutes before slicing and serving, to ensure that all the juiciness is retained in the meat. 

 

Glazing adds flavour, colour and texture

Glazing a ham is a great way to add flavour, colour, and texture to a baked ham. You can make a simple and delicious ham glaze from basic ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry.

Glazing involves using some sort of a sweet ingredient, usually combined with a fruity, tangy or pungent ingredient - which really complement the salty flavour of the ham.

Common ingredients include jam or preserves, brown sugar, maple syrup or honey, fruit juice or cider, mustard, vinegar, cloves, cinnamon and other spices.

The idea of making the glaze is to combine the ingredients into a paste, looking to balance the sweet, tangy and pungent flavours. It's the caremelisation of the sugars in the glaze that creates the glazing effect.

 

When to glaze the ham

You want to leave the glaze on the ham long enough for it to caramelize, but not so long that it burns. Be careful - sugar burns quite easily, so you only want to apply the glaze to the ham during the last part of cooking. Apply the glaze to the ham about 60 minutes before the ham has finished cooking.

 

Applying the glaze

To apply the glaze, you can use a heatproof spatula or a pastry brush (preferably the silicone kind). A spatula will work for a thicker glaze, as you can simply smear it over the ham - but for a more liquid glaze, you'll need to brush it on.

For a larger ham, you can apply the glaze in stages. You could apply one third of the glaze about an hour before the ham is done; then 20 minutes later you can apply another third of the glaze, and then the remaining glaze 20 minutes after that.

 

What’s the deal with cloves?

Many recipes call for studding a baked ham with whole cloves. Studding with cloves is traditional, and it it gives the ham a bit of pomp and ceremony. Push them in at every diamond corner and don’t forget to remove them before carving. Alternatively, simply add a few ground cloves to the glaze.

 

Ham glaze recipes

There are plenty of options out there for glazing a ham and the flavours seem endless. You can go for the traditional jam recipe or opt for a modern version, updated with passing years and expanding culinary horizons.

Glaze up your ham in your favourite flavour or experiment with the easy recipes below. Simply combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and apply to the ham 30 to 60 minutes before the end of cooking.

Brown sugar and orange juice glaze
  • 1¼ cups packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
 
Maple syrup and mustard glaze
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup country-style Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
 
Pineapple mustard glaze
  • ½ cup pineapple jam (or apricot jam or preserves)
  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
 
Lime and chili glaze
  • ½ cup sweet chili sauce
  • Juice from 4 limes
  • 4 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp Chinese Five Spice
  • ¼ cup soy sauce