Another quick recipe today from the Springtime Lunch a couple of weeks ago. Ham hock terrine is one of my favourite things to do periodically; ham hocks are a nice affordable cut and once you cook them you get a bonus ham stock which can be used for sauces, pea soup and even ham consommé (which can be really easily made like using the technique outlined here). Actually with the left over ham stock from this terrine I made a lovely ham risotto with some defrosted frozen peas thrown in at the last minute and finished with a little parmesan. This ham terrine is kept very nice and light by celebrating one of my favourite vegetables – wet garlic. Wet garlic is only available for a short period of time as it’s really just young garlic which hasn’t developed its thick outer skin and still has a mellow flavour. Here it’s confited to produce a meltingly tender and sweet centre for the terrine.
I served the terrine with pork crackling made from the ham hock skin after braising (made the same way as I’ve made chicken crackling or pork crackling in the past). Some pickled vegetables and confit cippolini onions rounded it out and made a meal which is a super easy to do in advance. The terrine (and in fact all the components) will keep for over a week and the terrine freezes brilliantly (to thaw, simply leave out for a few hours).
The recipe calls for braising the ham hock for several hours, up to 8 is ideal for a ham hock. The ham hock needs this long to slowly convert the connective tissue, also known as collagen, into gelatin. It’s this which gives the meat it’s delicious, unctuous texture. It’s also this gelatin which will set your terrine and hold it together. What this means in practice, is ham hocks are very much a set and forget kind of dish. I really often put them on to cook in the oven just before I go to bed and turn the oven off in the morning, placing it all in the fridge. That way you really get a stress free cook with no worry about having to set aside a whole day just to cook.
It’s important to let the hock cool in the liquid you’ve cooked it in so it re-absorbs some of that moisture and flavour. In many ways, you think of a piece of meat as a sponge. As you heat the meat, the fibres in the muscle contract and this squeezes the moisture out, like wringing a sponge. As the meat cools, the fibres relax and this allows it to re-absorb the liquid. An added bonus of cooling the hock is it’s less likely to break apart as you try and take it out of the stock.
Ham hock terrine:
- 2 unsmoked ham hocks
- Rough mirepoix (chopped vegetables) – I use whatever I have lying around but carrots, celery and onions is traditional – don’t use starchy vegetables like potatoes
- 1 garlic bulb (I chop the whole bulb in half through the equator and peel off the flaky white skin (but leave the clove’s skin on)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
- 5-8 springs of thyme
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 star anise
- 2 stalks wet garlic
- Goose or duck fat to confit the garlic
- 1 tablespoon honey (optional)
To confit the garlic
- Trim the thick end of the stalk off the wet garlic and place in a saucepan
- Cover with the goose/duck fat and season lightly with salt and place on a low heat
- Cook gently for 45-60 minutes or until tender
- Remove from the fat and cool
To cook the hocks
- Pre-heat the oven to 130-140 celsius if cooking for 8 hours or more, if you want to cook for a shorter period of time, place the oven on 160 degrees.
- Place the ham hocks in a pan, cover with unsalted water and bring to the simmer. Then pour out the water and keep the ham hocks. You do this to remove a little of the salt cure and some of the impurities
- Add the mirepoix of vegetables and the herbs and spices (thyme,cinnamon,bay leaf, star anise, peppercorns) to a large pan with a touch of olive oil over a medium heat and cook for 5 minutes or so whilst stirring to sweat the vegetables. Remember to season them with salt. They should be lightly softened at this point.
- Add the ham hocks and the halved garlic bulb and cover with water (I think water is enough, if you want to use chicken, ham or even veal stock that works well – beef stock is a little strong). Bring the water to a simmer and place in the preheated oven for at least four hours (if oven set to 160) but ideally 8 hours or more. I cook this overnight whilst I’m merrily sleeping away and it works brilliantly.
- Cool the ham hocks in the stock, strain the hocks and reserve both the stock and the ham, discrad the vegetables and spices.
To assemble the terrine
- Reduce the ham stock by half to two thirds to increase the flavour and gelatin content. Taste the stock and adjust the seasoning. I like to add a dash of honey for sweetness and find it works really well with the salty meat. Make sure to taste the ham with the stock to check the seasoning balance and remember flavours will become more muted as they cool.
- Remove the ham hock skin (if making the crackling then keep the ham skin as whole as possible and don’t throw it away), shred the meat. I like to leave a few unshredded bits of ham to form the centre of the terrine
- Slice the wet garlic in half lengthwise and remove the outer layers of skin which can be a little tough
- Line a loaf tin with clingfilm to make sure the terrine will come out cleanly
- Firmly pack the shredded meat into a loaf tin laying the unshredded pieces of ham and the wet garlic along the centre of the tin. Push firmly down on the top to compact and pour in the reduced ham stock until when you press down on the top the liquid rises above the surface. Compact as much as possible and cover with clingfilm, pressing the clingfilm to the surface of the meat.
- Place in the fridge to chill for several hours and the gelatin in the stock will set the terrine.
You can very profitably add other flavours into your terrine, be they herbs, capers, pickles, cooked vegetables or even other types of meat. Some people (for those less-health conscious among us) actually blitz up lardo and mix it with the shredded meat to enrich the terrine. I really like a simple clean terrine and then I put the extras on the plate, but, if I were doing this for a picnic, I have very profitably diced the wet garlic and mixed it with the ham before adding in a central core of chilled pea puree (into which I added very little stock when I was making it so its sets more solid when cold). Goes down a storm for a picnic I promise you