“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” – 

Hamilton Wright Mabie

Hi there,

It is my pleasure to bring this wonderful holiday post from Carol at Retired? No one told me! (

Carol is a very talented writer and chef. Her approach to creating recipes is scientific, healthy, and always tasty. Her contribution to this holiday edition is a very good example of her talents. I know if you stop over and visit Carol’s blog you will become a loyal follower:

My dear mother always cooked from scratch and always cooked her own ham puddings, cakes and pies …The Christmas ham was always looked forward to and enjoyed cooked by my grandmother or my mother…the recipe never varied she wasn’t an adventurous cook but a good cook and taught me the basics, of course, being more adventurous I have tweaked those recipes a little but I am grateful that my mother and grandmother taught me the basics as they have stayed with me all my life so far…

It is a ritual in our house that we brine and make our Christmas ham from scratch…my mother did and my grandmother always cooked ham at Christmas…Over the years I have experimented with different cuts of meat and I have even made ham with crackling which was delicious and worth the extra work…

If you are going to be brining a whole leg of pork then you will need to brine it for 14-20 days plus cooking as well plus ham is always better carved the day after cooking…

My two ham recipes are using Salt Petre I made the conscious decision that for the amount used and the dilution per litre of liquid that as the body can cope and disperse with the nitrate I would use that rather than getting botulism which the body generally doesn’t cope with.

Also for the number of times, I make ham we are not eating it day in day out week after week the risk is minimal and considering the number of chemicals which are in foods by cooking my own food from scratch I have control. That is my decision. It is also extremely likely if you buy your ham ready to cook that nitrates have been used in the curing process I believe I use far less than any ham I buy ready to cook.

Christmas Ham Recipe

A piece of Pork…top of leg……mine was 3 kilo.

Suitable plastic( not metal) container to brine the meat in.

Ingredients for the Rub:

  • 4 tbsp salt (coarse)
  • 2 tbsp  Sugar.
  • 1/2 tbsp Saltpeter(saltpetre) See note at the end of the post
  • Ingredients for Brine:
  • 5 litres water
  • 900 gm salt (coarse)
  • 2 tbsp Sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp Saltpeter.

Day one:

Mix the dry rub, and rub the ham, making sure it’s well covered. If using a 7-8 kilo ham you will need a double batch….make sure you wear gloves…

Place the ham in a large container, cover it with a clean tea towel and leave it in a cool place, like the fridge.

Now mix the brine in a pot and heat up and cook for 10 min. Remove the pot from the heat. Remove the foam when it stops bubbling and leave the liquid to cool and save in a cold place. I put it in the fridge.

Day two:

Pour the cold brine over the ham so it is completely covered.

Store the ham somewhere cold. If you have a larder or cold store that is great I keep mine in the fridge.

Turn the ham from time to time during the curing time. Use clean tongs and plastic gloves.

Let the ham brine for 14-20 days.

Note…If the brine goes cloudy, make new brine and replace the old brine with that and keep curing it.

Warning: Wear gloves even when dry rubbing. Clever clogs here didn’t the first time and I had a skin reaction all my own fault…

When the ham is cured use your favourite recipe to cook and voila a lovely ham.

I have cooked mine all different ways usually I cover it with water, bring it to a boil and then drain off all the water. Add fresh water and all my spices…I add a couple of bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, about 3/4 cloves, star anise and maybe a cardamom pod also about 2 tbsp of brown sugar…I cook for 20 mins per 500 gm of meat and then allow it to cool overnight in the cooking water it is then ready to eat.

 Ham with scored skin studded with cloves

Another option once it has finished cooking is to score the fat and stud with cloves, brush it with honey and put it in the oven for 20 minutes.

My third way of making ham which I did last Christmas was to use a loin of pork instead of the leg. It is also much quicker to brine than a whole leg and only takes between 4-6 days depending on the size of your meat and how salty you like your ham.

I used 2 kilos of Pork Loin.

Ingredients for Rub:

  • 2 tbsp salt (coarse)
  • 1 tbsp  Sugar.
  • 1/4 tbsp Saltpeter(saltpetre)

Ingredients for Brine:

  • 2 1/2  litres water
  • 450 gm salt (coarse)
  • 1 tbsp Sugar
  • 1/4 tbsp Saltpeter.

Mix the ingredients for the rub together and rub over the pork loin.

Place the ham in a large container, cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a cool place, like the fridge.

Now mix the brine in a pot and cook up and cook for 10 min. Remove the pot from the heat. Remove the foam when it stops bubbling and leave to cool and save in a cold place.

Day two:

Pour the cold brine over the ham so it is covered.

Store the ham cold.

Turn the ham from time to time during the curing time. Use clean tongs and plastic gloves.

Let the ham brine for 4-6 days.

Tip: The first time I used loin I left it for 4 days the second time I left it for 5 days which suited our taste… It is always wise to do a test run I think as personal tastes vary.

If I am making crackling ham I buy pork with the skin on and score the fat….when I get to the boiling stage I added water to just below the fat and then when it was cooked I covered the meat with foil leaving just the fat exposed then oiled and salted the fat put it in a high oven to crisp the crackling…It went down a storm everyone loved it…A bit more work but crispy crackling with your ham…Awesome!

Home-cooked ham and crackling

Most of the time I buy my pork loin without the fat…When curing ham or bacon the meat must be fresh and not frozen.

But whether you use loin or leg you can certainly taste the difference…

It can be eaten as second meat with your roast or you can make a lovely sandwich it makes a change from turkey…or cold with bubble and squeak, a jacket potato and some salad…There is nothing like home brined ham…Delicious

Thank you Carol for sharing with us this most delicious and healthy way to prepare pork. For further unique recipes and information about cuisines of the world and way to stay healthy, please visit Carol at


  1. Thank you so much Bern for the opportunity to share my tried and tested ham recipe…I love the snow effect and if you can tell me how to apply to my blog I would be grateful it looks so pretty and festive 😉 xx

    • Sounds good to me, Dorothy I love the sound of pineapple and cherries… I have always brined my own it took a few goes to get it right but worth the initial effort 🙂 x

    • It is Jacqui and its annual ritual now the ham is picked and the process begins and everyone especially my son keeps tabs on the brining probably because he knows when thats completed the ham will be cooked and he can fill his boots-smile -x

    • It can seem daunting Jenna but I am so used to doing it now that each step doesn’t take long to prepare and then it own thing until the next step …I ‘ll am=nswer any questions if you decided to give it a go 🙂

  2. I’ve never heard about this way to cook a ham before. The ones we get here in the grocery store are pre-cooked, so I’m usually just “cooking” them long enough to warm them up, and sadly mine are often dry. Good for you, Carol, for taking the time (several days!) to make a delicious ham from scratch. I’m impressed. Thanks for the fascinating post, Bernadette, and Merry Christmas to you both. <3

    • My mum taught me well, Diana,,,its second nature now but it is a little trial an error to get the taste right for you but once you have done that it gets easier 🙂 x

  3. This is exquisite! I can honestly say, I’ve never had holiday ham made from scratch. It sounds like a labor of love, and no doubt the highlight of the holiday for everyone at your table, Carol!

    • Thank you, Terri for your kind certainly is but worth it and has now become second nature to me…Wishing you a fabulous Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year 🙂 x

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