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Six of the best Christmas hams from Yorkshire

10:55 09 December 2013

Ham - Photo by Andy Bulmer

Ham - Photo by Andy Bulmer


Tony Greenway finds out where to go for the best Christmas hams

On Christmas Eve in our house, before the fighting starts, there is a period of delicious calm, writes Tony Greenway. It’s when you’ll find me in the kitchen with Nigella. Well, Nigella doesn’t make a personal appearance, you understand — although, frankly, it IS Christmas and I’ve been a good boy all year, so there’s no reason why she shouldn’t.

No, what happens is I get out a Nigella recipe for an aromatic Christmas ham which involves scoring the meat with a knife to make a criss-cross pattern on the top; then decorating it with cloves and making a glaze with cinnamon, redcurrant jelly, red wine vinegar and paprika. This particular ham is an integral part of Christmas Chez Greenway and as festive as carols, a real tree, lights, Yule logs, gingerbread houses, Perry Como’s Season’s Greetings album and re-runs of The Great Escape.

For some strange reason, though, cooking and glazing the Christmas ham has become My Job, in the same way that summer barbecues and removing spiders are also My Job.

I don’t mind taking charge of the Christmas ham, though, because a festive table looks bare without it. Plus it keeps the kids occupied as they enjoy studding it with cloves and pouring over the glaze. Crucially, the ham also tastes rather fabulous and is wonderful cold, so it’s very handy for Boxing Day when the in-laws descend.

Getting hold of great quality meat is important, mind you. So, where to go for the best Christmas hams? I thought you’d never ask...

Lishman’s of Ilkley
An award-winning butcher with a country-wide reputation, using high quality meat from local farmers. At Christmas, customers on the mailing list will be sent an order sheet so you can get your ham that way — or order sheets are available to pick up in the shop.

Home Farm, Beningbrough
This is a fab and friendly farm shop near York in the grounds of Beningbrough Hall, on the exit road (NB: you don’t need to visit Beningbrough Hall to visit the Home Farm shop). Run by Lucy Jackson, it’s well-stocked with everything — including lovely local uncooked ham joints which come vacuum-packed. ‘People can then put them in the oven and glaze them and stud them with cloves,’ says Lucy.

Mackenzies Yorkshire Smokehouse
A smokehouse and a smoker and curer of food, which supplies national restaurants, hotels and retail outlets, among others. A producer of superb dry cured bacons and hams, Mackenzies also has its own restaurant and a shop. At the time of writing, its online service was not available while its website was being revamped but this would be running in time for the Christmas rush. So you’ll be able to place your orders online, too.

Yorkshire Party Company
You may not want to do all the ham cooking/dressing business yourself in which case the Yorkshire Party Company will take care of that for you. You can order whole baked ham either smoked or unsmoked, on or off the bone, studded with cloves and prepared with a sticky glaze of orange, brown sugar, honey and grainy mustard. Plus, just in case you’re not feeding an army this Christmas, the Yorkshire Party Company also offers half hams. Customers can taste test from the YPC’s stall at the Camp Hill Christmas Fair and can pick up produce from the YPC premises right up to lunchtime on Christmas Eve. The last delivery, meanwhile, goes out on the Friday before Christmas. What a good idea.

Kendall’s Farm Butchers
Based in picturesque Pateley Bridge, Kendall’s is an award-winning traditional butchers established 40 years ago by the current owner’s grandfather, Thomas Frederick Kendall. It has embraced the 21st century, though, with an online ordering service on its website (and you can also ring to place orders). Uncooked and cooked hams are available.

Castle Howard
The farm shop at Castle Howard is worth a visit if you are searching for Boxing Day ham and you don’t need to pay an entry fee to the estate. A trip to this fine country house at this time of year never fails to get me in the festive mood.

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