A ham is the centrepiece of our annual pre-Christmas party for 100+ friends. Covid protocols mean that number will be slimmed down to less that 20, meaning I can’t justify my usual 10kg monster from Trunkey Bacon & Pork fame. Plan B is a double-smoked half ham from my new meat friend, Stefan Birmili, of Cured in Orange. I’ll be popping the cork on a sparkling red or two with the oven-glazed ham on the day – and hoping for some leftovers.

Cured home glazed ham + Primo Estate Joseph Sparkling Red, McLaren Vale, A$90

Love and marriage, horse and carriage. For me, ham and sparkling red is the perfect duo. The sweet, smoky meat and spicy red-fruited sparkling red seamlessly entwine. Check out the GTW tasting panel’s top picks on page 42.
The Joseph missed the cut but remains my favourite. Perhaps it’s the slim, elegant bottle but I love its rich, earthy flavours.

High Hopes Roadhouse fried leg ham and cheese sambo + Hillbilly Cider Cloudy Apple Scrumpy, Bilpin, NSW A$5 (375ml)

Sean Moran and his partner Michael Robertson have opened High Hopes Roadhouse at Bilpin. It’s the perfect stop when I travel to Sydney and home again to Orange. Their Bilpin farm provides much of the produce and this ham is one of the highlights. A correspondingly local drink is called for – and just down the road is the new Hillbilly Cider headquarters. My favourite is the Scrumpy – you can almost hear the garbled West Country accent of a Cornish orchardist.

Midnight Diner’s Ham Katsu & potato salad + Asahi Super Dry, Australia, A$4.95 (330ml)

Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories is a cult classic streaming on Netflix. The plot is simple, the food prepared by the main character equally so. At the end of each episode, there’s a recipe, which is where this dish is from. The ham katsu is sliced ham, panko-crumbed and deep fried. Served with potato salad and an Asahi beer – it’s all you want after midnight.

Stephanie Alexander’s Pea and Ham soup + 2019 Gundog Estate Indomitus Albus, Hunter Valley, A$34

Once the ham has been picked over, the bone goes into the freezer until winter. Stephanie Alexander’s pea and ham soup is easy peasy but what to drink with it? Traditionalists would offer an Amontillado sherry but I like a bold white – perhaps a southern Rhône blend. A home-grown alternative is Matt Burton’s Albus, a complex blend of semillon, gewürztraminer and riesling. Skins and old oak are involved; the end result has the power and punch to match that of the pea and ham soup.

Prosciutto di San Daniele and Rocket pizza + 2018 Angullong Fossil Hill Sangiovese, Orange, A$28

Smoked ham off the bone is one thing but the king of ham is the dry aged version that reaches its apogee in Italy and Spain. Prosciutto crudo is delicious anytime but as a topping for a bianco-based pizza with a scattering of fresh rocket, it’s a real winner. Add a slurpable red, such as the Fossil Hill Sangiovese, and life is beautiful.

Jamon Iberico de Bellota + 2018 Handpicked Wines Trial Batch Nero d’Avola, Murray Darling, A$29

Iberian ham has a special taste – that of the fallen acorns on which the black pigs graze. It’s all about the flavour-laden fat and the dense pig protein. I was supposed to be in Spain in April, but Covid stalled that. However, I discovered that Handpicked Wines’ urban cellar door offers freshly sliced Jamon Iberico de Bellota with their tasting platters. I popped in for a tasting and found a clear winner in their Trial Blend Nero d’Avola, its acid-etched raspberry flavours and farewell kick of tannin swiftly lapping up the decadent flavours of the jamon.


Cure-all

A tangy mustard, brown sugar and maple glaze works a treat on this ham from Gamekeepers Meat ( gamekeepersmeat.com.au).