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In Sweden (where I am from), the ham is by far the most important dish on the Christmas buffet (julbord in Swedish, a special instance of the smörgåsbord, enjoyed when celebrations start at dinner time on Christmas Eve. My paternal grandmother fled from Estonia in 1944, and my father has passed on the tradition of preparing this vital dish in the Estonian way to me for our cross-cultural Christmas buffet. Far superior to the traditional Swedish method of coating the trimmed ham with egg, breadcrumbs, and mustard, this roast recipe yields a nice jõulu sink with a crisply roasted rind. I simply could not imagine Christmas without it.


Modus operandi:

  1. If you are using unsalted pork, put the ham in a pot or bowl, pour over enough water to cover it, and add 2 Tbs salt per liter (or quart) of water. Leave it in the refrigerator for 1–2 days.
  2. Heat the oven to 225°C (440°F).
  3. Put the ham in a roasting pan with the rind down. Fill the pan up with water to about 3–4 cm (1–1½ in) depth. Peel the onion and carrot. Slice the onion into about four slices and add them to the water, spread around the pan. Break or cut the carrot into four pieces and add them too. Add all the spices including the parsley to the water.
  4. Put the roasting pan in the oven and wait 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the oven and turn the heat to 275°C (525°F). Turn the ham over and carve a pattern of squares about 1 cm (½ in) in size into the rind with a knife. Put the pan back into the oven.
  6. When the ham begins to take on a slightly yellow color, reduce the heat to 200°C (390°F). Pour a ladle of broth over the ham now and then, and add water to the pan as needed. Roast for 1½ hour, or if using a thermometer, until the meat reaches 73°C (163°F) in the center (but not by the bone, if any).
  7. Open the oven door and leave it ajar while roasting the ham for 10 more minutes, or if using a thermometer, until the meat reaches 75°C (167°F). This turns the rind crisp. Done!
  8. Filter the broth and save it. It can be used for adding flavor to sauerkraut, instead of gravy for the potatoes, or for the Swedish tradition of dopp i grytan (sliced bread soaked in the broth from the Christmas ham).

Serve in thin slices with wholegrain mustard and decorated with the crisp pieces of rind together with the other mandatory delicacies of the Christmas buffet, including aspic, oven-roasted potatoes (put a solid cast-iron frying pan or other ovenproof dish with a few tablespoons of melted butter and whole, peeled potatoes in the oven about an hour before the ham is ready, turning them over once, then sprinkle with whole cumin seeds), hot sauerkraut, beet root, rassolje (beet root and herring salad), a variety of fish, meat balls, sausages, Estonian pickles, and the like.

For The Ninjagirls Christmas Special and in honor of my grandmother.

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