Every year my employer bestows a Christmas voucher on all its staff, that is redeemable for a turkey and ham in a purveyor of fine meats’ (otherwise known as a butcher’s shop). Since my return to Ireland I have travelled each year to Limerick with a suitcase laden with Dublin meat. Such are the dimensions of the produce, I get the skeleton removed from the turkey at the shop, to make it more convenient to carry. I also get the enormous ham divided in two. Half travels with me to vibrant, sexy Limerick, where the non-vegetarian clan members can avail of its meaty goodness. The other half goes into the freezer in Dublin for use later in the year.
When I was placing the 2018 ham shank in my freezer on December 24th, I realised with horror that the 2017 ham was still nestling in the deep freeze. Judging me. My new year’s resolution was to rectify this.
Having done some YouTube research I discovered that frozen meat, stored properly never ‘goes off’. The temperature is too low for it to ever kill you. The quality and texture will deteriorate after a period of about six months however, due to a phenomenon called ‘freezer burn’. This is where the frozen meat dehydrates and loses its taste. Looking at the twelve month old joint of ham, I saw that there was no discoloration which was a good sign. I had wrapped it well. Into the fridge it went last night, to begin defrosting. This morning – twelve hours later, it was still rather solid. I suspect this process will take a few days.
Which gave me plenty of time for the other repellent task that will be necessary to cook my cider boiled, honey roast ham with cloves. I would have to clean the oven.
I have never cleaned an oven in my life. I have never felt the need to. In my feckless youth, I was too busy being young and hip and fresh and urban. When I lived in my own place in Amsterdam the size of my kitchen meant that I only had a miniature oven that didn’t really count. Since my arrival back in Ireland three years ago, I have used the cooker in my kitchen on a regular basis. I couldn’t guess the previous occasion when it had been cleaned prior to my arrival in my elegantly appointed home. I suspect it may have been a while. What I am certain of however, is that I have never cleaned it. I was too busy climbing that corporate ladder to the dizzy heights of the middle to ever worry about such things.
An expensive – albeit frozen for a year – ham, required a fresh oven however. Especially considering the black plumes of smoke that emerge from the bowels of the beast whenever it is turned to a temperature above 175 degrees centigrade.
Yesterday evening, with an item called ‘Oven Pride’ – gifted to me by my mother – in my grubby paws, I got to work. The skull and crossbones symbol as well as the dire ‘WARNING: Corrosive Liquid’ emblazoned all over the bottle concerned me slightly. I donned the marigolds (purchased in Marks and Spencer), placed the oven trays in the plastic bag along with half the contents of the toxic bottle; sealed it and left it overnight. The other half of the liquid went inside the machine, where using a rough sponge, I scrubbed it over all surfaces. I am quite the scrubber let me tell you. The gooey, black oil which resulted, had an odour of ancient, rancid chip fat. Which concerned me slightly. I rarely eat oven chips. Then it dawned on me. This could be residue from before my time?
Feeling slightly nauseous I went to bed.
This morning I hauled my weary bones from bed, and staggered to the kitchen. Filling the sink with hot soapy water I cleaned the oven trays and discarded the noxious, slimy black liquid from the bag. The oven trays were made of silver coloured metal. Imagine that? I always thought they were black?
Onto the oven’s innards which was even more revolting. The stench was horrific – hydrochloric acid mixed with the ancient congealed lard of thousands of meals. I soldiered on. After about an hour, I was satisfied. It still might not be the cleanest convection oven in the land. But it’s certainly sparkly enough to honey roast a Christmas ham.