Free range festive pig for dinner
Greeting one's Christmas ham is an excellent reason for a summer road trip.
After much talk of meeting producers and farmers, I figured I couldn't share a glazed ham recipe without first viewing a free-range pig farm. It took a lot of ringing around and very few responses from piggeries or pork brands before I struck a company willing to let me visit a pig farm. I was specifically looking for a brand available in supermarkets.
There are a couple of methods of ethical pork farming. One is free farming, which is basically animals in large pens in even larger barns. The other is free range, which is what I think of when I think of "free" pigs; paddocks, mud baths and sunshine. Both models qualify under the SPCA Blue Tick, so a bit of label reading is required. If sunshine and fresh air is what you had in mind for your "happy pig" then look for the words "free range". However, both these methods seem more pleasant than the unlabelled pork that leaves itself open to association with the publicly-maligned sow crate.
To be classed as a happy pig, animals must be able to indulge in five specific freedoms. It means that a free range pig must be free from: hunger and thirst; discomfort; pain, injury or disease; fear and distress; and have the freedom to express its normal behaviour (nzpork.co.nz).
Feeling ridiculously like an Aucklander, a tattooed friend and I headed for Tauranga to one of the farms that supplies pork exclusively to Harmony Foods.
The hilly farm we visited had a big mob of happy, grunty beasties, all covered in mud, either pegged out in the shade or running about with wriggly tails. There were no nasty squeals, bite marks, scabs or weeping sores. This happy bunch of pigs had us city-slickers laughing as we watched them running or lolling in the Bay of Plenty sunshine. It was with great glee that Darren Hood, the farm owner, patted various pigs on the rump, pointing out who was ready for market, a man quite rightly proud of his pigs.
With even more pride he introduced us to Borris the giant boar who featured in the opening scene of The Hobbit. We also met his babies in the surrounding farrowing areas, safely split off with their big healthy mamas.
There has been much fuss (and quite rightly) about the maltreatment of pigs. But it is important to remember that there are guys out there like Hood who look after their animals. Organic meat companies are working hard to support good practice and in turn deserve our support in the market. The difference in animal care warrants a few extra dollars at the till for my Christmas supper.
I have used a half champagne ham in this recipe. It has had the uppermost part of the bone removed, leaving only the knuckle. It is easier to carve while preserving the look of the ham by leaving the hind hock intact.
The ham pictured fed 16 people with big appetites. There were enough leftovers for me to make four pasta bakes for the freezer. Using the ham in dishes for the freezer is a good way of dealing with ham leftovers once ham sandwich fatigue has set in. Or freeze leftovers in small chunks for adding to cooked dishes.
EASY GLAZED HAM
8kg champagne ham
2 Tbsp cloves
¾C orange marmalade
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Run a knife under the rind on the ham and peel it back to remove. Score the fat into a diamond pattern and stud with cloves.
Heat the orange marmalade so that it is runny and stir in the vinegar. Brush liberally over ham. Place the ham in the oven for 15 minutes, brush again with the glaze from the base of the pan. Continue to cook for 15-20 minutes or until golden and gooey. Serve chilled.
Store ham in fridge on a plate under a clean tea towel sprinkled with Schweppes lemonade. Change plate and towel daily.
Preparation time: 25 minutes.
Cooking time: 30 minutes.
Serves: 18-20 people.
Sunday Star Times