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At this time of year I am sure I am not the only person that goes out and buys a whole leg ham on the bone for the Xrissy table – I do a turkey in the weber also but more on that in another thread.
I picked up my ham today from my local butcher whose ham I will buy sliced every now and then and it is pretty good. I normally buy my Xmas ham from a small smoking company which unfortunately sold up around October this year – his hams were awesome!
So I got my ham home and just chanced to look on the label – I am a label reader – and found that my ham was in fact only 78% pork the other 22% was made up of water, salt, nitrites, acid regulator, sugar and other stuff etc etc In my label reading travels regarding ham I have found ham in the supermarket with as much as 95% pork and as low as 55% pork.
Now the thing is I like Kevin’s ham but I am not sure I want to be eating only 78% pork? My expectations on a gourmet ham would be that it be in the 90% pork range. Am I wrong; is the quality of a ham dependant on the amount of pork in the ham? Or is the quality all about the quality of the meat and the quality of the brine and smoking i.e. in the magic of Butchers like Kevin and how they ply their craft?
Obviously a ham with a higher pork content will be a drier ham, a more meatier texture, flavour and mouth feel – something I like in a whole leg ham. A ham with a lower pork content is going to be a little more wet, a softer texture and possibly a little more salty.
Where do you guys and girls sit in regards to your xmas ham? I know there are a couple of butchers lurking here what say you about pork content levels in ham?
1 tablespoon of butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small red chilli – finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
1 leek – sliced in half lengthways then sliced
1 fennel bulb cleaned peeled and sliced thin – approx 2/3 cup
1 kilo of large mussels
1 bottle of Dark Beer ale or lager – Dogbolter, German Dunkel, Red Hill Scotch ale, Mornington Brown Ale, Mountain Goat Stout you get the idea.
1 can of chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons of Fennel fronds – chopped reserved from the fennel bulb
Clean and scrub mussels making sure to remove beards. Or buy some Boston Bay Mussels from South Australia (also go by the name Spencer Gulf) they come pre packed, cleaned, scrubbed, de-bearded and alive!
Add 1 tablespoon of butter and olive oil to a large pot over medium high heat. When butter has melted add half the garlic and the chilli and fry gently for several minutes then add the leeks and fennel, gently sweeting for about 5 minutes or until translucent then remove from pan and set aside. Add the rest of the olive oil to the same pot you cooked the fennel in and when hot add the rest of the chilli and garlic and fry for a couple of minutes then tip in the mussels and about a third of the bottle of beer put lid on and turn heat to high. Bring beer to a boil and boil/steam the mussels shaking the pot to get the liquid swirling around the mussels. When all the mussels have opened remove from the heat and pour the mussels into a colander that is sitting in a large mixing bowl so as to capture all of the cooking liquor. Put the pot back on the heat and add the fennel and leek mixture back into the pot, the canned tomatoes and another third of the bottle of beer stir and bring to the boil. Remove the colander with the mussels from the large mixing bowl and set aside. Strain the cooking liquor from the mussels through a fine sieve to remove any dirt, grit or bits of shell and then add the liquor back into the pot bring it to the boil and then turn it down a little so that it can simmer for a couple of minutes. Add the mussels back into the pot and stir through so they get the hot liquor into them, simmer for two minutes then add fennel fronds stirring through.
Serve in big bowls with fresh crusty bread and a spoon to slurp up the fantastic juice.
Ps don’t forget to finish the remaining third of beer!
Note: do not salt this soup as the mussels, if really fresh, will be full of sea water which will be quite salty but equally delicious.
Really Important note: If some mussels do not open get a knife pry them open and EAT them. It is a false hood that they should not be eaten!! They are perfectly safe and delicious. Before cooking if you notice a smelly mussel ditch it or a mussel that has a cracked or broken shell – it will be dead so ditch that one also. If you get good mussels that are alive then they are fine and safe to eat even if they do not open.
I was in bed ready to just go to sleep and pretend that I didnt turn 50 today but then I really wanted to have a record of this momentous occassion!
I have many comments to make and I have thought long and hard about what I might say about this turn of events but I will leave it for later when I have been 50 for a day or two but lets face it what I will have to say will not really differ from what I feel right now!
But I will say this – I am happy!
I’m not going to admit to a belated happy Xmas or even a belated merry Xmas I am just going to wish you all a very happy – magnificent even – Boxing Day.
I was pretty busy yesterday cooking stuffing, lighting the webber, stuffing the turkey, carving the ham, opening presents, opening champagne, cooking the turkey, playing with the kids, hugging the wife, eating, drinking, playing some more and generally being merry with my very beautiful family. It was a wonderful day. We were joined by Jack (Elise’s boyfriend) in the evening and had a lovely evening.
I did manage to send out Xmas wishes via my 4 face book pages (really I need to have four???) and over twitter so I felt like I covered as much as I could on the day.
A lot has changed in my life over the last 6 months – changed for good – in fact changed for all of us here under the Mercurio house hold roof (a new one too as we moved again in November) so having a solid Xmas day together just the five of us was really important. Erin’s boyfriend Jordy popped over for an hour of present exchanging in the morning and probably some lip locking (see what I mean about change?) For the rest of the day the five of us had a really special day just sharing time and space with each other.
So we had a lovely Xmas together, we all just embraced it and held on to it as we all know not where or what each of us will be doing next year because change is in the air.
Merry Boxing Day!
So starting from today I have been married to my wonderful wife Andrea for 25 years! Yes I count myself very lucky – lucky to have met her, lucky to have married her, lucky to have forged the relationship I have with her, lucky to have made three beautiful daughters with her and lucky to know we will be continuing on with our lifes journey together well into the future.
I take nothing for granted, we have had our ups and downs, our highs and lows, our good days and our bad days but over all life with Andrea is blessed. She is a wonderful friend, lover, confidant, mother and soul mate.
We have already stepped into the next 25 years and so far so good!
Thank you sweetheart – I love you.