Ham in Coca-Cola

Simmer a juicy ham joint in sweet cola using Nigella Lawson's recipe from the Deep South
By Nigella Lawson
Ham in Coca-Cola
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 8
  • Cook Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes plus soaking if necessary
  • Effort: easy



  • 2 kg gammon, mild cure
  • 1 onions, peeled and halved
  • 2 litres Coca-Cola

For the glaze

  • 1 handfuls cloves
  • 1 tbsp black treacle
  • 2 tsp English mustard powder
  • 2 tbsp demerara sugar

Tips and Suggestions

This recipe is from How to Eat, with some rejigging (just because it's not in my nature to leave completely alone) and I don't apologise for reproducing, or rather recasting, it because I simply cannot urge you to try this strongly enough. The first time I made it, it was, to be frank, really just out of amused interest. I'd heard, and read, about this culinary tradition from the deep South, but wasn't expecting it, in all honesty, to be any good. The truth is it's magnificent, and makes converts of anyone who eats it. But, if you think about it, it's not surprising it should work: the sweet, spiky drink just infuses it with spirit of barbecue. I have to force myself to cook ham any other way now; though often I don't bother with the glaze but just leave it for longer in the bubbling cola instead.

And the salty, sweet liquor it leaves behind in the pot after it's cooked makes an instant base for the most fabulous black bean soup.

But just one thing before we start: don't even consider using diet cola; it's full-fat or nothing.


1. I find now that mild-cure gammon doesn't need soaking. If you know that you're dealing with a salty piece, then put it in a pan covered with cold water, bring to the boil then tip into a colander in the sink and start from here; otherwise, put the gammon in a pan, skin side down if it fits like that, add the onion then pour over the cola.

2. Bring to the boil, reduce to a good simmer, put the lid on, though not tightly, and cook for just under 2 1/2 hours. If your joint is larger or smaller work out timing by reckoning on an hour a kilo altogether, remembering that it's going to get a quick blast in the oven later. But do take into account that if the gammon's been in the fridge right up to the moment you cook it, you will have to give a good 15 or so minutes' extra so that the interior is properly cooked.

3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 240C/gas 9.

4. When the ham's had its time (and ham it is now it's cooked, though it's true that Americans call it ham from its uncooked state), take it out of the pan but do not throw away the cooking liquid. Let the ham cool a little for ease of handling. (Indeed, you can let it cool completely then finish off the cooking at some later stage if you want).

5. Remove skin, leaving a thin layer of fat. Score the fat with a sharp knife to make fairly large diamond shapes, and stud each diamond with a clove. Then carefully spread the treacle over the bark-budded skin taking care not to dislodge the cloves. Then gently pat the mustard and sugar onto the sticky fat.

6. Cook, in a foil lined roasting tin for approximately 10 minutes or till the glaze is burnished and bubbly.

7. Should you want to do the braising stage in advance and then let the ham cool, clove and glaze it and give it 30-40 minutes, from room temperature, at 180C/gas 4, turning up the heat towards the end if you think it needs it.

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