The mouth watering aroma of ham decorated with orange slices and cloves cooking in the oven really means Christmas is here.

A thick slice of ham or maybe even two is a must on my Christmas lunch plate.

I like to buy a full leg, bone in, and roast it gently in the oven after removing and scoring the skin and decorating it with thinly sliced orange and cloves.

Free range ham is my first preference, but always Australian pork, which is sometime hard to determine.

Australian Pork Limited’s Mitch Edwards says more than two thirds of ham sold in Australia is made from imported pork. His best tip to ensure your ham is made from 100 per cent Australian pork, is to buy a bone-in ham or look for the pink PorkMark logo.

I recommend buying your ham at a butcher, but if you want to buy at a supermarket, Bertocchi Brothers Triple Smoked Leg Ham was judged Best Nationally Available Ham at the Australian Ham Awards. It’s available from Coles.

How do you pick the best ham from the bunch? Fleischmeister and master butcher, Horst Schurger has five great tips.

  1. Look for a natural meaty texture: avoid the wet or rubbery.
  2. Choose a ham with a good smoky flavour. Ask to taste it.
  3. Look for smooth, even skin and even colouring. If the knuckle is sunken, it’s 
overcooked. If the rind if buckled or uneven, it’s a sign of dryness.
  4. Hams 10-12kg are most likely to have the best flavour and texture due to age of the pig.
  5. For the best results, opt for fresh Australian pork rather than hams made in Australia 
from frozen imported meat.

Carving the ham properly is important both for table presentation and flavour. I’ve found everyone thinks they are an expert carver but often the results can be disappointing.

First, place the ham rind side up. Run a small, sharp knife under the rind at the end of the ham (opposite end to hock) and all the way down each side of the ham, to about halfway up towards the hock. To peel the skin off, slide your fingers under the rind, carefully pulling it back, while making sure it comes off in one piece. This is important as the rind will be laid back over the ham for storage.

Once the rind is removed, run the tip of the knife around the small bone at the opposite end to the hock. This will free the meat from the bone to make for easy slicing.

Holding the hock in one hand, begin to slice on a slight angle towards the opposite end, slicing down to the bone. If the ham slices do not fall away, re-run the knife around the bone.

Continue to slice, as you get further up the ham, continue to loosen the meat from the bone with the tip of the knife.

To keep your ham fresh, fold rind back over the exposed surface, place in a ham bag and store in the fridge.

For more information visit pork.com.au.

Have a hammy Christmas!