Hotel branches out to find a cure from sea air

Chef Russell Williams with the hanging ham.
Chef Russell Williams with the hanging ham.

VISITORS to Bailiffscourt Hotel, in Climping, have been greeted by a peculiar sight when they arrive to book in.

Head chef Russell Williams and group head chef Martin Hadden have, for the past 18 months, been attempting to cure Parma-style hams by hanging them from trees in the grounds.

The experiment has been one of trial and error, with a third batch of hams currently dangling among the branches.

Russell said: “Being a chef is about experimenting with food. We wanted to see if we could use the fresh, salty, seaside air, to try to dry the hams.

“It’s been a bit hit-and-miss. Initially we tunnel-boned the ham to get some more flavour into it. But when we found that the cure hadn’t made it all the way through and maggots had taken hold.

“It’s a long process. Right now it’s more for our own amusement.”

The initial stage of the curing process involved a 30-day period of rubbing salt and spices into the pork legs. The hams were then washed, dried and hung in a humid room.

After a few days a final application of lard and black pepper was rubbed into the hams, which were then wrapped in cloth and hung in a protective cage.

Russell admitted more work was needed to perfect the process.

He said: “The hams are meant to be hung in an ambient temperature – one that stays roughly the same all year round. So the next stage is to hang them in the chapel.”

The hams are not yet available to purchase. However, the hotel, in Climping Street, hopes that if the process is refined and succeeds, the hams could be served on its menu.