Ham in Coke

Several years ago, I stumbled on a Usenet post waxing lyrical about the savoury potential of Coca Cola when combined with pork. That same Coca Cola that your teachers spent years warning you about in the very darkest terms; at my school they used a can to dissolve a volunteer’s recently shed milk tooth away to nothing, and demonstrated its unholy ability to clean pennies with rotten-incisored glee.

I have a caffeine-addicted husband and a yen to flout the outdated authority of my Home Economics teacher. I have spent several years perfecting a ham in cola recipe, and am more than mildly irritated to find that these days, Nigella Lawson is publishing a version of ham in Coke in every book she writes. No matter. Mine’s better. Ham needs something sweet and spicy to counter its savoury saltiness – it happens that cola is the perfect foil. I can’t think of another way I’d prefer to cook ham now – this may sound a perverse thing to do to a nice chunk of pork, but trust me; it’s fabulous.

You’ll need:

1kg smoked gammon
1-2 large bottles cola (more or less depending on the size of your pan)
1 red onion
1 bulb garlic
1 stick cinnamon
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 dried chilis
20 cloves (give or take a few)
1 teaspoon ground chipotle chili
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground mustard
4 tablespoons maple syrup

Place the gammon in a close-fitting, thick-bottomed pan (important, this thick bottom; you need to avoid singing the bottom of your ham) with the onion, halved, the bulb of garlic, cut in halves, the cinnamon stick, coriander seeds and whole chilis. Pour over Coke to cover (I’m afraid it has to be the full-fat version; Diet Coke won’t caramelise properly) and put on a medium heat until it reaches a simmer. Lower the heat enough to keep a gentle simmer, and put the lid on for 2 1/2 hours.

After your kitchen timer has gone, preheat the oven to 200c and lift the whole ham carefully from the liquid (Hang onto that liquid if you want to make Boston baked beans). Leave the ham to cool enough to handle. With a sharp knife, remove the rind, without removing the fat.

You’ll be left with a joint of meat with a glistening covering of fat. Use your sharp knife to score the top in diamonds, and stick a clove in each corner of each diamond. Make a paste from the ground cinnamon, ground chipotles, mustard powder and maple syrup, and brush it all over the ham, concentrating on the fatty surface. The sweet mixture will caramelise onto the crisping fat; this is pretty much 90% bad for you, but, unfortunately, it tastes approximately 100% good. I really should talk a friendly social statistician somewhere into working out just how bad for you things have to be to start tasting good; I’m sure there’s an interesting graph in that somewhere.

Put the whole ham in the oven, uncovered, for twenty minutes, remove and check that the fatty surface has formed a crust. (If you prefer more crust, put the ham under a high grill for two minutes.)

If you have made a large ham, you can make several good meals from it. Eat it like this, freshly cooked, with some sautéed potatoes; eat it in Pasta alla Medici; use it to flavour Boston baked beans.

If you’re having people round for dinner and feel like cheating, feel free not to mention the cola. And if you enjoyed this as much as I do, you’ll probably want to check out the sticky chicken pieces in coke too.

52 Replies to “Ham in Coke”

  1. It does sound wonderful, but do you think that Diet Coke would be even close? I’m not into sugar, it makes me crazy when I eat it. (Crazy to eat more mostly, but that is bad enough.)

  2. Diet Coke – I’m not sure. Heat will do awful things to aspartame; it degrades in heat and loses its sweetness, as well as gaining some toxicity. I have read a recipe where you cook the ham in weak coffee (with sugar and more spices). Perhaps that’d suit you better, without the sugar?

  3. Liz, my wife cooked this for me at the weekend. Was delicious. Thanks for the recipe. Though we have a lot of coke left over. Not sure what to do with it as we don’t really drink the stuff. I don’t work in IT you know!

    Maybe Nigella’s coke chocolate cake…..

  4. Hi
    Did you use a norml or fan assisted oven? What would teh temperatures be for a fan assisted? Think I will try this for Christmas dinner.
    Thanks a lot, you have made life a lot easier for me!

  5. Hi Michelle – my oven is fan-assisted (although my experience is that there isn’t *that* much difference – only between 15 and 20 degrees). So you can comfortably set that dial to 200.

  6. I think I love you!! I've been asked to cook 2 hams plus Boston baked beans for 230 people – you've given me the ideal combination! Thank you thank you!

  7. Hello again! No, I don't soak it before cooking – it really doesn't need salting when poached, and hams these days tend to be a lot less salty anyway.

  8. I really want to do this for Chritsmas Day, can I do the simmering,the night before. Then do the glaze and oven bit Christmas Day ?

  9. Hi – cooked this once for a non-pork eating person. He loved it, just been to get the ingrediants to do it again. I substitute honey for maple syrup. Hope that’s ok! Sharon

  10. Hi Liz, I’ve been wanting to try a good gammon and coke recipe for ages and I’m so glad I scrolled past Nigella’s version which didn’t look half as good as yours. I’ve got all the ingredients in but I’ve only got unsmoked gammon. Will this work or do I need to hit the shops again?

    1. It’ll be fine – and I’m very flattered! In the end, the smoke decision is entirely down to personal taste. Same with bacon; I massively prefer it smoked, but smoked bacon is considered such an abomination by my in-laws, for example, that they actually apologised for accidentally buying it when we visited a few months ago!

  11. Just to say great recipe. I have heard of this dish before. After all the comments from my friends and familly “you’re cooking it in what” then the stunned reactions of “wow that really works”. Will be cooking this again. Nice one!

    1. Hi Paul! Funny – it’s something to do with the time of year, but this seems to tick all my Christmas checkboxes at the moment. I’m making it too this week.

  12. Hi, this looks amazing, and I would like to cook it for Christmas dinner; can any aspect of it be done in advance? How long will it keep once cooked?

    Thanks 🙂

    1. Hi Kayleigh

      You can poach the ham off in the coke well in advance, and from that point, thanks to all that smoke and salt, it’ll hang around happily in the fridge for a week. (It’s very good cold, sliced.) If you want to roast it and serve it hot on the day, bring it to room temperature before you roast it. I’d do it at 180C for about an hour and a half (you’ll find it easiest if you use a meat thermometer), basting as you go, and covering the top with foil if it starts to catch. Merry Christmas!

  13. I’ve bought a 1.8kg ham which if done on 35min per kilo as above would mean poaching for about 1 hour but your recipe uses a 1kg ham but poaches for 2.5 hrs? Sorry, I just need to cook it right without giving all my christmas guests food poisoning! How long should I poach for? Thanks

    1. Hi Natalie – no, you need to follow the original recipe. A larger ham like Frank’s needs much less time in the stock per kilo. And no, you won’t give your guests food poisoning, and neither will Frank! (Quick edit – which is to say, your ham needs about 3 hours 20 minutes or thereabouts.)

  14. Hi Liz, I’m going to attempt this tomorrow, two questions:

    1. Can I do any of the prep for this today?
    2. I couldn’t find chipolte chili, what would be a just as good alternative?

    Many thanks!

    1. Hi Manisha

      Absolutely – you can poach the ham today and keep it in the fridge until tomorrow, roasting it then. If you can’t find chipotles, don’t worry too much; smoked paprika is a good alternative, but if you can’t find that either just leave it out. Merry Christmas!

      And Gayle – I’m afraid I’m not any use at all around slow cookers! Can anyone else help Gayle out?

  15. Hi Liz

    I’ve just gone for it anyway…..it’s been in for an hour so far and it smells FAB!!! I can’t wait to prove the hubby and kids wrong!!


    Gayle x

  16. Hiya, i have got a high stress “Come dine with me” competition with brother in law and best friend. Bro in law was useless, now its my turn! cant really cook but really fancy doing this…what can go wrong please?? Happy New Year.

    1. If you follow the recipe to the letter, there’s basically nothing that you can get wrong. If you’re really worried about it and don’t cook much, I recommend a trial run – enjoy, and good luck!

  17. I’ve got a smoked gammon joint in the fridge – will definitely give this recipe a try. I was going to do Nigella’s but yours definitely sounds better. I think my son will LOVE it and he might even get a small glass of coke too (very rare treat in this house)

  18. Just had to add….. I’ve never been a big lover of gammon but my other half was desperate that I try to cook one after 8 years of living with him…..so I bought the gammon on Saturday & been trying to find a way to cook it he will not have heard of….so I’m trying this for tonights dinner……it will be my two sons 1st experience of gammon too….wish me luck……????

  19. I am going to try this recipe for Christmas. I have never cooked a gammon before but all these positive comments have inspired me plus I am really intrigued with the concept. I think my husband is expecting me to make a mess of the whole thing but I am hoping to prove him wrong!

  20. ooooooooooohhhhh, am so excited, i’m trying this recipe for the first time……only cooked a turkey once so not the most experienced chef!! An American friend of mine puts cayenne pepper in hers and i mite try that too. Happy Christmas everyone!!

  21. Thanks – it was lush! I thought it seemed possibly a long cooking time (Delia only cooks hers @ 1kg for an hour30 in cider before roasting)but it was fab. Everyone said they enjoyed it more than Christmas lunch! Genius.

  22. Hi! My ham is just over 2kg this year, how long will it need? I was going to just double the times but wanted to make sure!

    I love this recipe and so glad you still have it up on the website!

  23. I’ve been making this ham for the last 5 yrs and it really is the one that everyone likes. Even after 5 years, I still get asked for the recipe. If the ham doesn’t get eaten in the first sitting (highly unlikely) it keeps fantastically in the fridge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *