Gammon is cured pork; ham is cooked gammon. Let's put this issue to bed now and take a look at this glorious roasted gammon hock.
Ham or gammon?
On Boxing Day, if you're of the traditional orientation and serve ham, there is always someone to ingeniously ask: 'so what's the difference between ham and gammon?' Eye-roll. Sigh.
Why does nobody ever ask about the difference between pork belly and bacon? Perhaps because a lot of people think that bacon comes from a different type of animal than pork. That's a joke, but not entirely: I've come across thus thinking individuals.
The bone appeal
There is something appealingly primeval about eating a piece of animal leg on the bone. You picture yourself as a medieval squire, waving the whole joint of meat about before greedily biting into the fat, spitting out gristle, washing it down in a very slurpy manner with a goblet of rich wine.
Which is where shanks come onto the scene as chicken drumsticks are far too dainty for the experience.
Of course a shank it's slightly too large to wave about and probably too substantial for one by modern standards - and where on earth can you get hold of a goblet? But it's great to share, and no waving.
Lamb shank trumps pork shank?
Lamb shanks reign over the Eastern Mediterranean and everyone comes back from holidays rushing to the butcher's for a nostalgic piece of sheep. Why, oh why is poor pig the underdog?
Pork shank (gammon, gammonn, gammmmonnn...) is every bit as nice as lamb and more: it's less gristly, fattier in a nice way and the lean bits are tenderer. And it will fall off the bone just as easily if you treat it well.
How to cook gammon hock?
There's a bit of fat and rind on the gammon hock but also plenty of those round lean succulent muscles nestled around the bone. As all lesser cuts, it does not need a lot of hands-on attention but only time. It will need soaking first, and that's not to get rid of the saltiness which purpose it served in the pas, but for initial tenderising.
Then the boiling stage, with aromatics, for about three hours on gentle simmer. For best results leave it to cool down in the cooking liquid - overnight if possible - before blasting it in a hot oven with a classic sticky mustard glaze.
And that is it. Ham hock (as it will now be called as it has been cooked) or shank or knuckle is actually tastier than boneless gammon - and what a nice low price label it bears.