Another venture into my recipe development! This time I was trying to roast a garlic ham from the Polish shop down the road, but do it in the slow cooker rather than the oven. Although not a complete failure, this slow cooker honey roast ham is another one of my development recipes that is far off of a blog-standard version! Check out my other development blog posts if you’re curious to what I’m working on or failing at!
My mate Tom Kerridge* did an awesome recipe for honey roasted smoked bacon a few years back. Check out his recipe here, it’s one of the easiest and most impressive recipes I’ve ever had the pleasure of trying.
Anywho, in my general mental wanderings of the day I decided that doing this in the slow cooker would both be easier and more flexible. My main reasoning for this avenue of thinking was that I wanted to do this on Christmas Day. But the oven is prime real estate on Christmas morning, and certainly doesn’t have any spare capacity for non-essential additions like this. I would also probably ruin a few other dishes by constantly opening the door and letting out all the heat!
So I picked up a smoked bacon/ham from the local Polish shop (some of their smoked bacons are lovely… SOME…) plus a jar of honey, and gave it a stab. Slow cooker on high, I basted and pasted the honey over the ham every half hour for a solid 3 hours. It didn’t go golden or delicious at any stage. Not like Tom’s bacon does in the oven, anyway.
The ham didn’t actually taste too bad. Honey and ham are an excellent mix, so it was always going to be ok. But there were a few errors.
Firstly – the slow cooker simply doesn’t get hot enough to start maillard reactions taking place. By its very nature, it cooks slowly = cooking at low temperatures. I thought the colouring and flavouring would come from the heated honey, but it turns out that hot dry air is actually doing most of the hard work.
The second mistake is easily remedied. Don’t by crap ham. I thought it looked quite cute, having nice fat running through it that would render down deliciously over time.
Turns out that it was all artificially incarnated. The ham was processed, and the fat stuck in to place using transglutaminase. This is a type of ‘meat glue’ (branded as Activa RM) that plays around with the proteins in flesh and causes them to stick together. So in theory you can stick a slice of salmon to a side of beef, and they’ll cook as though they’re all part of the same joint (albeit with different ideal cooking temperatures). So anyway – that layer of fat was processed and disgusting. The ham itself was rubbish. I should have seen this from how it looked, but I must have been having a mid-life crisis moment or something. Think of it like eating fatty spam. It’s flavoured so it’s not repulsive, but it’s certainly no prized cut. In fact you can tell that it is processed – the honey was probably the only thing making it taste ok in the end.
So while I’m not totally lost on the process JUST yet (could more be done over a much longer time? Slow cooking then finishing in the oven or even a pan? Or the reverse – start in the oven, then slow cook?), I’m certainly going to pick my meat cuts better!
(*Tom’s not actually my mate, but I’m free if he’s reading this and wants to be mates)