Christmas preparation in the Philippines starts as early as September and the Christmas season does not only focus on just the eve and the Christmas day itself. Filipinos have this “simbang gabi” (Attending mass) that starts on the 16th of December and ends on the 24th, a day before Christmas. Filipinos ritually attends the mass for nine consecutive days. Then have their festive celebration of the tradional “Noche Buena” (Christmas Eve).
For the Noche Buena, you would see variety of mouth-watering dishes, from desserts, to the main course and you’ll get full even at the sight of these Filipino Christmas cuisine.
Christmas Feast or Noche Buena doesn’t have to be expensive especially with the traditional ham. Commercially-processed ham can be very expensive but you can surely prepare your own home-made Ham for Noche Buena.
Sweet Ham Recipe
- 3 kilos (pigue or hita) pig’s leg without the bones; select one with the skin and fat intact
- 9 tbsps sugar
- 8 tbsps salt
- 1-1/2 tsps msg or vetsin
- 2 tsps prague powder (instead of saltpeter or salitre)
- Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl.
- Rub these seasonings well into the meat. Set aside the seasoned meat in a glass bowl. Cover and refrigerate for one day.
- Tie the ham tightly into a ball with string (I use cotton crochet string). Remove/Drain the meat juices that were left in the glass bowl and set aside for injecting.
- Using a huge syringe (you can buy the largest syringe at Mercury drugstore for less than 20 pesos), inject the flavored meat juice all around the ham in small doses.
- Set the ham aside in the glass bowl (covered) inside the refrigerator. Repeat the injecting process every day until no juices remain.
- Keep the ham inside a plastic bag in the freezer for a month or more.
To cook the ham:
- Add enough pineapple juice to cover the ham at about 3/4’s level (not quite to the top of the ham).
- Add the following: brown sugar ( just enough to sweeten the pineapple juice mixture), bay leaves, crushed garlic.
- Cook the mixture in a heavy, teflon-type pot over a low fire until the meat becomes tender. Watch out that the meat doesn’t get burned. You can prevent over-browning by turning the meat from time to time.
- Cool the meat and slice into pieces.
If you want a drier ham, put the ham in a glass dish (pyrex) before cooling and slicing. The meat, however, will shrink considerably and will be a little tough (almost like beef jerky consistency).