Christmas isn't Christmas until you break out the ham!
Updated: Dec 5, 2022
When I was younger, so much younger than today, I used to be invited to stay with a school friend’s family in North Wales. They have a lovely house, and one of many abiding memories from staying there was that there was always a leg of ham in the fridge (well it seemed that way anyway!). The idea stayed with me, and now, many years later, having finally escaped London with my family, I was keen to do the same.
Now, I need to set out my stall early here. I am not what one might call an effortless cook – being honest, its rare for anything I have a go at to turn out exactly as intended. Even less so for my lovely wife. So, after a few failed attempts at cooking a ham to a standard where I was standing with sharpened knife at the ready, salivating at the prospect of digging in (which accomplished chefs around me assured me was “easy”), I decided I needed HELP!
We had already found Downland Produce, based in Melksham and now owned by Chris Webber, on account of his awesome sausages, so imagine my delight when I discovered that I could also buy cooked ham joints from him.
And they taste absolutely delicious. Chris does not rear pigs himself, but he does source carefully from local farms in Wiltshire and Somerset. The business has a great tradition of small batch production and he works closely with local food producers to keep the food miles down.
Our family loves the stuff, and I have been buying joints regularly from Downlands ever since. Stock-outs are greeted with great consternation by the family, because the taste is so good. And ham is so useful to have in the house – great for lunch on the go, and what beats ham, baked potato and peas with a bit of parsley sauce for a quick and easy evening meal?
The joints come vacu-packed (as do most of Chris’ products) with a decent shelf life of up to 4-5 weeks. Price-wise, he charges from £17/kg for joint between 0.5kg and 4kg. Waitrose charge £6 for 2x130g pack, so £23/kg, and here is the rub - it’s 25% cheaper than Waitrose, with the taste out of the park, as long as you can carve (rough cut is so much nicer anyway), and store it effectively and use 3.5kg within the shelf life. It’s amazing that cooked ham will survive as well as it does wrapped in parchment and stored in the fridge. If wastage is a concern, you can cut the joint in half, vacupack the half you don’t want immediately and bung it in the freezer. What is not to love? Chris does of course sell the joints uncooked as well – a good option for those who love to cook.
By the way, if you don’t have a vacuum sealer, there are plenty of inexpensive options on Amazon. They work by sucking all the air out from around the food, making it much harder for mold and bacteria to grow, and protect the food from dehydration and freezer burn. A useful addition to the storage armoury.
I’ve done a bit of research to try and find other purveyours of fine ham joints, but other than Duke’s Hill (expensive and out of area) I haven’t come up with anything. Let me know if you know of anyone – options are always important! In the meantime, I highly recommend getting your Christmas ham and other goodies from Chris – you really can’t go wrong. He was my first local supplier, so he deserves a special plug! To get hold of them, I would ring on 01225 945 011 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org. For a full range of produce, see https://downlandproduce.co.uk/online-shop/