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History Cookbook: Boiled Ham

This recipe is in categories Victorians, Main courses, Party food
About this recipe
Healthiness : (630 votes)
Difficulty:  3 out of 5 difficulty
Preparation Time: 12-24 hours soaking time
Cooking Time: 2-3 hours (depending on the size of the ham)
Number of servings: 6-8
Serving suggestions: Serve with salad and new potatoes.

A boiled or baked ham made a centre piece for any victorian table. There are several recipes but the boiled version is usually served sliced thinly with the fat removed. Sometimes the ham would be dressed with breadcrumbs to give a neat finish.The ham joint was boned before soaking and boiling. This was considered(by some) to be best done by a man. A contemporary account notes:
"This operation(boning) requires care and dexterity;and,if it has to be performed by a woman, it had perhaps better be left undone, as, to my knowledge ladies in general are nervous when handling a sharp knife under difficulties;"
Whilst we agree with the above, a butcher will happily remove the bone and roll the joint without much waste.

How to boil a ham:
If a ham is old it must be soaked for at least a day in cold water before it is fit for cooking. When the ham is soaked, put it in a pot large enough to make it swim add vegetables and bay and a little spice and boil the ham slowly for 4-5 hours. When the ham is done allow to be cold. When cold remove the rind by slipping your hands under and trim it clean. Garnish and serve."
  • A boned ham joint (1-2 lbs)
  • 2 or 3 celery stalks
  • 8-10 juniper berries
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Large container
  • Large pan
  • Sharp knife
  • Wooden spoon (alternative)
  • Scissors
  • Large meat knife
Making and cooking it
Always wash your hands before preparing food Always wash your hands before preparing food.

Soaking the ham:

  1. The ham needs to be put into a container large enough to be well covered by water or you will need to keep turning it to make sure the salt is evenly soaked out
  2. Soak the ham overnight in plenty of water 

Cooking the ham:

  1. Add to a large pan the celery, juniper berries and the bay leaves. You could also add onions and a few cloves
  2. Carefully add your ham
  3. Cover the pan and bring the pan to the boil
  4. As soon as the water begins to boil reduce the heat so the pan simmers. The ham should simmer for about 1 hour per pound, plus about 20 minutes
  5. You may need to add more water during cooking time. Do NOT let the pan become dry


  1. Lift the ham out of the pan before the last 20 minutes of cooking
  2. Using a spoon push dried apricots into the rolled centre. This should be quite easy as the meat will have shrunk a little during cooking. The apricots add sweetness to the final ham

To serve the ham:

  1. Once the ham is cold, cut the string and slide your hands under the rind. It should lift away easily
  2. Trim any fat away
  3. The ham can be sliced and served
  4. Sprinkle with a fine layer of chopped parsley to dress the ham.
Boiled Ham - print view  Boiled Ham - print view

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Name: Grenofen 29th February 2012
Sounds good.Perhaps a teaspoon Of Honey????/ Honey is traditional with oven baked ham to create a glaze. This is more of a farmhouse recipe where the bay and juniper add the extra flavour. That said we haven't tried it with honey. If anyone wants to give it a go, do let us know the results. The Cookit Team
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