I’m one of those people that associates holidays with certain types of food. Thanksgiving=turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce; St. Patrick’s Day = Corned beef boiled potatoes and cabbage. Easter then is… no surprise… ham. There’s a particular recipe I’m actually quite fond of in Nigella Lawson’s Feast: Food to Celebrate Life for a Coca Cola Ham. Braising the ham in Coke reduces the salt content, softens the meat and adds a pleasant sweetness that’s simply irresistible.
The problem with ham of course is that they tend to come in 20lbs hunks and are not so conducive to NYC apartment cooking. My solution, while quite unhealthy, tastes better than ham, comes in any size you want and is cheaper than ham. I picked up a 3.5 lbs slab of smoked bacon from my favorite butcher Florence Prime Meats for around $13.50 and after a few hours braising in 275 degree oven, it came out mellow, melty and delicious. I’ve adapted Nigella’s recipe for this blog.
2-3 lbs slab of smoked bacon with skin
3 Tbs cherry jam
1/4 C dried cherries
1 vanilla bean split in half lengthwise
15 whole cloves
2 liter bottle of Coke
1 Granny Smith apple peeled and sliced
1 small head of cabbage cored and shredded
Put the bacon in a large bowl and cover with water. Put it in the fridge overnight to reduce the amount of salt.
Put the rack in the lower position and preheat your oven to 275 degrees.
Place the bacon into a heavy pot that it will fit snugly into (you may want to cut it into 2-3 smaller pieces). Add the jam, vanilla, cloves, and cherries and pour enough Coke over to cover the pork.
Bring it to a boil over the stove, cover and put it in the oven until the meat is fork tender (about 3 1/2 to 4 hours).
Remove the bacon from the braising liquid and place it skin-side up on a rack over a baking sheet and tent with foil.
Skim off the fat from the braising liquid and strain half of it into a sauce pan. Boil this until it is a nice syrupy sauce.
Put the cabbage and apples into the other half and simmer until both are tender about 30-40 minutes
When you’re ready to serve, move the rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Uncover the bacon and put it in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the the skin is nice and crispy.
Serve immediately with reduced braising liquid drizzled on top along with some of the braised cabbage and apples.
Update: One thing to keep in mind, this is a lot of cola, so if you’re having this as a late dinner, you might want to use caffeine free Coke.