Homer: Lisa honey, are you saying you're never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?
Homer: Pork chops?
Lisa: DAD! Those all come from the same animal.
Homer (sarcastically): Yea right Lisa, some wonderful, magical animal!
Of course Homer was, albeit unwittingly, quite right. The pig is, in culinary terms, a wonderful beast - especially so for those of us ever on the lookout for inexpensive cuts. It's not for nothing that the front cover of Fergus Henderson's seminal book 'Nose To Tail Eating' featured a drawing of a porker.
So when The Observer, in a flagrant - some might say desperate - bid to boost flagging sales, featured yours truly in this weekend's Food Monthly Magazine it seemed not inappropriate to accompany the article with a couple of recipes based on a ham hock.
They aren't, however, something I tend cook on a weekly basis. In fact, I can go months without a single hock-related thought. So it was a bit weird/serendipitous that the good folks at The Ginger Pig should send me a smoked hock the very week before the article was due to appear.
So here it is: Ham Hocks II: The Sequel. It's based on this recipe from Mark Hix. I'm not sure that the hock actually needed soaking overnight, but I reckoned it wouldn't do it any harm.
Apart from the baked ham itself, you'll end up with a litre or so of glorious stock. I've put mine in the freezer for use at a later date, but right now I'm thinking of a soup with spring greens and pearl barley, the latter because I've found a months old jar of it at the back of the cupboard. Poor old pearl barley - it's like the weedy, unpopular boy who's last to be picked for football, laughed at by the popular kids such as the puy lentil, carnaroli rice or even the thick but burly chickpea.
baked ham hock, apple gravy, carrot + swede mash
for the ham:
1 smoked ham hock, soaked overnight (check with your butcher to see if this is required)
1 bottle (568ml) of cider
3 carrots, roughly chopped
1 onion, halved
2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
6 juniper berries
6 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
a bunch of parsley stalks, tied up with string
½ cinnamon stick
for the glaze:
1 tsp english mustard powder
1 tbsp muscavado sugar
2 tbsps honey
for the gravy:
1 dessert apple, cored, peeled and sliced
a ladleful or two of the ham stock
for the mash:
100g (peeled weight) carrots
100g (peeled weight) swede
a knob of butter
a small handful of parsley, finely chopped
salt + black pepper
Put the first eleven ingredients in a large pan (the hock should just be submerged in the liquid). Bring to the boil and then simmer gently for 2½ hours. Top up with water if it's required, but that probably won't be necessary. Remove the hock from the pan and allow to cool.
Mix the glaze ingredients together and rub all over the hock. Place it in a small roasting tin along with the sliced apple. Place in a 180C/160C fan oven and bake for 1 hour. After 20 minutes, add a small ladleful of stock to the tin. Check every now and again to make sure this hasn't evaporated entirely, adding a spoonful more stock as required - this is the basis for your gravy.
While the ham is in the oven make the mash: bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add the carrots and swede. Boil until both are tender - 25 minutes or so. Drain, return to the heat and dry out. Mash well and add a knob of butter and the parsley. Stir and season.
When the hour is up, take the roasting tin out of the oven and put the hock to one side. To make the gravy, mash up the apple slices with the back of a fork and put the tin over a low heat. Add a ladleful of stock while stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. It shouldn't need any seasoning.
Pull the skin off the hock and discard. Then pull the meat off the bone with a fork. It won't be pretty, but it will be tasty.