Down in our basement, behind various bottles and jars on the preserve and cordial storage shelf there was a bottle of Christkindle Markt Glühwein – a species of German mulled wine. The bottle had been there for some time for not only was it dusty, but the label was a bit nibbled on by silverfish. I vaguely remember friends bringing it to us from Heidelberg – obviously sometime around Christmas one year, though exactly what year is in question as the bottle is undated.
It is a well known fact that some wines improve with age and others simply turn to vinegar. I’ve read innumerable reports of credulous buyers bidding on old vintages at auction only to find that their historic and horrendously expensive wine was undrinkable. Not that this vintage Glühwein could be considered in that same elevated category, but it was still of an uncertain age. But, not wanting to waste it by pouring it down the drain, it was opened and sampled. Not too bad, but then there was that lightbulb moment. (After just watching the episode about lightbulbs of the Royal Society Christmas Lectures on BBC, that seemed an appropriate metaphor.)
Carefully reading (and translating) the ingredients on what was left of the label, I saw blueberry, anise, allspice, cardamom, orange and cloves among the muscat and merlot. It seemed the perfect liquid to cook our fresh ham we had ordered from the farm along with the Christmas Turkey.
Mulled Wine (Glühwein) Ham
Any mulled wine can be used; purchasing a bottle of German glühwein specifically for the recipe is not necessary. Just be creative! The initial cooking in the mulled wine is best done the day before baking the ham.
- 2 to 3 kg. fresh cured ham (gammon)
- 1 litre mulled wine (or glühwein)
- 2 litres water (or apple juice), enough to cover the ham
- 4 apples, cored, peeled and halved
- 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon whole allspice
- 1 cinnamon stick
Wash the ham under cold running water before putting it in a large stockpot and covering it with more cold water. Cover and bring to a boil and let it cook for a few minutes. Turn off heat. Remove the ham and rinse off. discard the cooking water and clean out the stockpot. This process gets rid of a lot of the salt used in preserving the ham.
Put the ham and all of the rest of the ingredients back into the pot, making sure that the ham is covered with liquid. Cover the pot. Bring back to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for about 4 hours. I find that using a heat diffuser helps to keep the heat even during this slow cook. A side benefit to this process is the wonderful spicy aroma that fills the air.
When the ham has cooked, remove it and let it completely cool. In fact, this initial slow cooking in the mulled wine is best done a day before and the ham refrigerated overnight. The mulled wine liquid will now be salty, but it can be strained is very good in braising red cabbage.
If the ham has been refrigerated, remove it at least an hour before baking so that it gets to room temperature. Trim much of the fat from the ham, leaving a thin layer.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (approximately 350 degrees F). Line a baking pan with foil and make foil rolls to fit around the ham and keep it upright. Place the ham in the ring of foil and score a diamond pattern in the top.
Let the ham rest while you make the glaze.
The choice of jam or jelly for glaze should be paired to the flavours in the mulled wine – cranberry sauce or red currant jelly are both safe choices. Because my mulled wine – the glühwein – contained blueberry juice, I used blueberry jam.
- 4 Tablespoons jam
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 1 Tablespoon grainy mustard
Combine the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan and heat until the mixture bubbles. Turn off heat and let it cool while you stick whole cloves in each diamond of the scored ham.
Spoon the cooled glaze over the ham and place in the oven.
Bake for about 40 minutes. Or, if you want to ensure that the glaze does not burn, spoon it on the ham half way through baking.
Cut thin slices from the ham and serve with a cranberry sauce or a fruit chutney.