The gammon from hell

My mother, bless her, was not the greatest cook. She hailed from a large family of excellent cook, but  lacked a good eye for recipes. 
My earliest eating experience are known to me as "hit and runs" or potholes - ònce you hit them, you never came out the same way.
Time and again we would endure the weird flavour combinations, turkey neck stew (yes such a thing exists), apricot meatloaf, the latest take on ideal milk, and the ever looming waterblommetjie season with patience and quiet suffering.
Like me, my mother was also a champion burner, many things met their untimely death on an almost daily basis. You have to be truly special to consistantly burn microwave popcorn. Consistently.

Once in a while, however, there would be a real winner.
It was quite by mistake that my mother produced the most spectacular gammon one Christmas. 
Arriving flushed and defiant, she presented us, her most hardened critics, with the crispest, most tender gammon we have ever tasted.
She dubbed it The Gammon From Hell as the story goes it was the result of three recipes, 7 hours of cooking, three different basting sauces and 2 tins of fruit. She had unknowingly bought an uncooked cut of meat, and after boiling, basting and roasting it, realized it was still raw. She had then plonked it (my mother plonked food)  back in the boiling pot, basted it again and then roasted it for a second time. It was then baptised a third time, with two tins of pineapple rings upended over it to create the most tender gammon no-one has been able to recreate since.

My mother never really was one for jotting down a recipe so recreating her dishes is a bit like a scene from George's marvellous medicine ... However, one thing I know is that when I cook I don't need to hold myself back, whatever I end up with my family will endure with smiles and laughter as another food pothole is added to the long road of our lives. 

Here is my version of the gammon that stole Christmas.

Gammon from hell
2 or 3 kg Gammon
1 litre apple juice
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
Water to cover

Sauce ingredients:
2 oranges
1 lemon
1 grapefruit
2 tbsp sugar
125ml cranberry sauce

Toppings:
1x 200g pack streaky bacon
5 fresh, tinned or dried pineapple rings
1/4 cup dried cranberries 

Place the gammon in a large pot, and pour over the apple juice.
Add the chopped celery, onion, tomatoes and the bay leaves.
Cover with water so the gammon is just covered.
Boil for 20 minutes for each 500g and an additional 20 minutes.
I like to put it in a slowcooker on low for 8 to 10 hours so it's starting to fall apart. It is advisible to turn the meat at least once to make sure there is even cooking and the top bit doesn't dry out.

Finely grate the zest of one orange, and half the lemon. Juice the oranges, lemon and grapefruit and combine the juices and zests in a pot. Add the sugar and reduce by half.

When your gammon has finished boiling, place it in a casserole or baking dish. Pour over the cranberry sauce. Layer the streaky bacon across it to form a bacon blanket and  pour over the reduced juices.
Bake in the oven until the bacon is crisp, about 20 to 25 minutes at 180 °C. To serve layer with the pineapple rings and sprinkle with dried cranberries.

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