22 April 2006
Some people have suggested I should split this up: have a writing-blog and a cooking-blog, and then a self-indulgence blog for all the cat fancy and the suicide notes. I do take the point, because not everyone is interested in everything that interests me - and I see no reason why anyone should be interested in my tedious domestic doings, nor indeed my anxieties and stress, tho' obviously everybody should be fascinated by the smallest deeds of my cat - but this is meant to be a record of my writing life, which cannot be distinguished from the cooking, nor the gloom, nor the cat. I live this thing undifferentiated, that kind of murky cocktail where everything's shaken up together rather than the neat stripy separated variety; and if the cat didn't wake me and the worry didn't keep me awake then I wouldn't have been up at six and writing.
So nah, not going to do that. This continues to be that curious kind of public diary that sometimes talks direct to you about stuff I hope will interest or amuse; sometimes talks to God, generally in a howl of protest; sometimes, oftentimes, is simply talking to myself, or making notes for the kitchen, or whatever.
As this: if anyone out there boils and glazes hams, as I do, here's a thing to do. Here, indeed, is everything that I do.
Soak the ham overnight, and change the water once or twice. Then bring it to the boil in fresh water again, and while it's heating pierce an orange with many cloves and slip that in alongside. Simmer (don't boil - you barely want to agitate the water) uncovered for 25 minutes per pound; then take the ham out and heat the oven up good and hot. While the oven's heating and the ham is cooling, make the glaze; today I used equal measures of redcurrant jelly, ground English mustard and black treacle. Mix all that together, then carefully cut the rind off the ham, leaving as much of the fat as possible ('possible' in this instance being a flexible term, because I know some people worry; if you can't bear it or your partner won't allow it or your kids will pull faces and peel it off, then by all means don't leave the thick layer of fat that I adore). Reserve the rind. Slash the fat diamondwise, put the ham into a roasting tray, spoon the glaze over and rub it well into the slashes, then slide the tray into the hot oven. After ten minutes, take a look; if it's all dark and caramelised and sizzling, it's ready. If not, give it another five minutes. If you give it another ten minutes, as I did this morning, it'll burn (not really a problem, but hey...).
Now - and this is the point of my sermon today, here is the nub - set the ham somewhere to cool, put the roasting tray to wash (if you've scorched the glaze severely onto the bottom, as I did this morning, pour a kettleful of boiling water into it and leave it to stand. Really it's just burnt caramel, and it will dissolve in water), turn the oven right down low and fetch a baking-tray.
Lay the reserved rind on the tray, rind-side up, and slip into the bottom of the oven. Leave for an hour or so, and it'll crisp up into crackling (or pork scratchings, as we call 'em over here). Take 'em out, scatter 'em with crude salt crystals (or mix your old dried herbs with salt to make, um, a herby salt, and use that, as I do) and they are a snack fit for gods, and for anyone who doesn't worry about eating fat.
© Chaz Brenchley 2006
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.