Kitchen Tips

Christmas know-how: Top tips for buying ham and turkey

No traditional Kiwi Christmas would be complete without a ham or turkey taking pride of place at the table. Ensure you buy the best with our top tips for buying meat over the festive period.

What should I consider when buying a Christmas ham?

Neat Meat managing director Simon Eriksen says more than half of the hams on sale in New Zealand over Christmas will be imported and they don’t have to meet our standards in terms of using growth hormones and antibiotics. If that’s a consideration for you, check labels and ask your butcher where the ham came from.
Order early to avoid disappointment if you want a free-range ham. Neat Meat sell more than 12,000 free-range hams over the festive period. Smaller, boutique suppliers like Woody’s Free Range Farm sell through their website. Only a fraction of New Zealand pigs are free range and you should expect to pay a bit more for a premium product.
This marmalade, maple and orange glazed ham will be the star of your Christmas spread.

Should I get a whole ham?

Unless you’re buying ham for a large number of people, Simon recommends buying a half ham, or two half hams. Once you glaze and cook your ham, the countdown is on before it starts to dry out and become tough.
If you have your whole ham wrapped in two pieces it lasts longer. If you want a half ham, go for the less attractive butt end – it’s always the best value and has all the great topside and rump meat – rather than the prettier shank end.

Food to Love's top tips for ham

1 If you’re buying your ham at a butchers or supermarket, hold the ham and feel around the packaging. If you feel small amounts of liquid pooling between the packaging and the ham this means it has too much brine and your ham will be watery.
2 If you aren’t confident in your carving technique, it makes sense to get a boneless ham where the leg has been tunnel boned. Make sure to pre-order these as there is a limited supply of hams and you don’t want to end up with the leftovers.
This citrus and herb butter roast turkey is perfect for Christmas.

Everything you need to know about turkey

There are three main players in the New Zealand turkey game and Kathy Guard of Canter Valley says her North Canterbury business sits in the middle – Croziers are the smallest and Tegel the largest.
Turkeys are generally sold at size 4 (4kg) and can go up to a whopping 10kg. If you want a really big turkey it would pay to order early. The main problem people have with cooking whole turkey is drying it out.
The key is to brine, your turkey, cook it exactly to the timing on the packaging, check you have the correct internal temperature with a food thermometer and rest it for at least an hour.

What is a 'free-range' turkey?

Kathy says it’s not quite how people perceive it. They must be raised indoors until fully feathered to protect them from predators and the cold. They have a choice of being inside and out – but they are fed and watered indoors to prevent contamination and diseases from wild birds.
On a cold winter’s day turkeys don’t want to stand outside when they can hang out in a nice warm barn. Free-range certification means conditions have to be good for the bird as well as the people eating it. All the players in the turkey market offer free-range options.
Try this turkey with lemongrass stuffing for something a little different.

Did someone say turducken?

It’s what Kathy eats at Christmas and Canter Valley sell them online. A turducken is a chicken, inside a duck, inside a turkey, with stuffing between each meat. They sell a few hundred each year. Kathy says they’re a labour of love for their processing plant, but are definitely something unique to serve.