Perfectly pink ham and zesty pickles make a timeless pairing

There are three things I remember about my gran’s house: the smell of coal dust from the open fires; the freezing cold outside loo; and the slow and peaceful bubble of a ham cooking on the black-leaded kitchen range. Even now, half a century later, I think of her whenever I boil a piece of ham, its fat slowly turning to quivering jelly, the meat puttering away in an aromatic bath of water with onion and carrot, bay leaves and peppercorns (I’m pretty sure she popped a clove or three in there, too). It’s a favourite dinner I cook all too rarely, despite every mouthful coming with deep affection and a ladle’s worth of memories.

My gran, Lily, served her ham in thin slices with some of its broth and, always, a dish of pickled beetroot. I offer mine in a similar way, but with a tangle of pickled cabbage whose crunchy, sweet-sour addition I prefer to beetroot, and a bowl of fried jerusalem artichokes, first steamed for softness then fried with parsley and lemon to crisp the edges. I can’t imagine my gran ever saw (or heard of) a jerusalem artichoke, but they do have an affinity with ham.

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