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Christmas Ham – choosing, cooking, carving and storing

By February 7, 2022Christmas, Pork, Recipes

Christmas Ham | I have not lived through a Christmas without ham. Whether we have it glazed or naked, warm or cold, it’s an integral part of Christmas and we wouldn’t be without it. Here’s my guide for choosing, glazing, carving and storing your Christmas ham.


• 1 full leg ham
• 500g jar of marmalade or apricot jam
• 1 cup (250ml) orange juice
• ¼ cup dark soy sauce
• 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
• 3 cloves garlic, crushed
christmas ham - glaze

A very simple glaze for the ham.

NOTE | Choosing a ham

First thing for Aussie readers – look for the Australian Pork symbol. This guarantees you that the pigs were grown here, and not imported. 65% of our pork small goods are imported. Regular readers of mine will know my issues with this and why I believe we should really be trying to buy local and humanely raised produce. The best person to ask is your butcher, and the best way to buy (I believe) is to order directly from them.


1. Preheat oven to 180°C.

2. On the shank end of the ham leg, cut rind in a zigzag pattern.  Don’t  cut deeply into the meat – just go through the skin.

A very simple glaze for the ham.

3. Carefully remove the rind from the fat end of the leg using your fingers. Slide your hand under the rind, leaving the fat intact on the meat.  This leaves a nice rough surface on the fat which will hold the glaze

Start at the big end

Run your hands under the skin to separate it from the fat

4. Score the fat in a diamond pattern. 
It’s important to score into the fat but not into the meat – use a light touch. Place the ham in a (large!) baking dish.

Lightly score the fat

5. In a saucepan, or in a microwave-safe jug in the microwave, heat the marinade ingredients until warm enough to mix well.  Do not boil.

6. Baste the ham all over and place in the oven.

Baste all over with the glaze

7. After 20-30 minutes reduce the temperature to 160°C and cook for a further 2 ½ hours.  Baste the ham frequently during cooking – every 15 minutes or so if you can.

8. Allow to rest before carving. It can rest overnight in the fridge if you like.

Baste frequently during cooking for a thick, glossy glaze

Carving the ham

1. Place the ham on the serving platter, on a spiked carving platter, or wherever you want to serve it from. To carve nicely, you need to cut a wedge out of the shank end of the ham. To do this, make a cut vertically to the bone a little above your zigzag pattern. Then cut a wedge out at a 45* angle.  This chunk of ham can be sliced and laid on the platter.

First cut out a wedge

2. From there, carefully slice the ham making sure that each piece has some of the delicious glaze on it.

Carve as thick or as thin as you like

Storing the ham

After everyone has had their fill, the ham needs to be kept in the fridge in a ham bag. This can be a purpose-made calico or muslin bag, or a pillow case, and it needs to be soaked in a weak vinegar solution. It’s best if all the glazed bits have been eaten off just so the ham bag doesn’t instantly turn glaze-coloured – but that’s not the end of the world. The bag needs to be rinsed and re-soaked in vinegar solution every three days or so, until the ham is used up.

There are many schools of thought as to how long the ham will last after Christmas, some people say days, others say weeks, I say in my experience we can eat it for about a week if the bag is refreshed. Use your own common sense, give it the sniff test, make sure it’s not left out of the fridge for too long at a time. It can be frozen – but in my opinion it’s nowhere near as nice afterwards so best to eat it up while it’s good!

Ham bag. Not handbag.


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Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • Karen Hossary says:

    This looks beautiful, I will try this recipe for Christmas. Thanks Julie

  • Justine says:

    Hi Julie
    I prefer an uncooked ham for it’s moistness, but want to glaze for presentation really. Can you suggest a way to glaze quickly without actually cooking the meat underneath ?

    • Julie says:

      The three hours in the oven is all about setting the glaze and allowing layers to build up so it’s thick, sticky and lovely. It doesn’t dry out the ham underneath at all. I prefer my ham cold, so I usually glaze it the day before eating.

  • Thanks Julie. You are a such a good teacher- this looks doable- and delicious. But I have to find a ham bag:-)

  • Staicee says:

    Hi Julie, I just wanted to thank you for sharing your recipe. As an apprentice chef I really love re-creating dishes by people who are so accomplished like yourself. I used your Christmas ham recipe last year & it was a definite hit with the family and friends. Safe to say I can’t wait to do it again this year!

  • Shannon says:

    Hi Julie, I am going to attempt a ham for the first time this year. I was wondering if you can do a half leg instead of a full ham? and how would I go about it? – Just worried the end where it is cut in half would dry out too much… or because of the low temp you cook it, it would be ok? Thanks in advance. Loving your Blog BTW! xo 🙂

    • Julie says:

      Hi Shannon, I’ve never tried half a leg, I suspect that the very end bit (the exposed ham) might dry out but you could always slice that off before serving. Maybe you could try glazing that part as well, just to prevent it drying too far in. If it looks good leave it, if not, give it the chop!

  • Kirsty P says:

    Hi Julie, This is my first year doing a ham for my family. I have ordered one from the butcher and was just wondering.. Do I have to cook it first or can it be carved and eaten straight from the store? Thanks, Kirsty

  • Alexis says:

    Hi Julie. How long before serving can I
    Glaze my ham? Am I able to do it 2 days before?
    Or is best cooked on the day of serving?

  • Mike W says:

    Holy moly Julie! Cooked this for Xmas lunch with the same marinade, it was soooooooo delicious! Thank you!

  • Rosie says:

    Thank you for this wonderful recipe, just about to tuck into it now!