Ham With Parsley Sauce

This is classic comfort food. I remember my mother making it when I was a little girl and it’s always been a favourite. I prefer boiled (actually simmered) ham to roast ham – it is sweet, juicy and tender and makes a surprisingly light-tasting meal, not at all stodgy. Try to save some to eat cold next day!

Boiled Ham With Parsley Sauce

  • Servings: 4+ some to eat cold
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Image of ham with parsley sauce


1 kg smoked gammon or ham, tied in a round

1 peeled onion, 2 sticks of celery and 2 peeled carrots, chopped

Stalks from a big bunch of parsley

6-8 black peppercorns

1-2 bay leaves


Apple juice (or a bottle of cider)

For the sauce:

The leaves from the bunch of parsley

50g butter

50g plain flour

600-700 ml milk, warmed with a peeled onions and a few peppercorns

Salt and pepper

(I like my sauce thick and with lashings of parsley. If you want it thinner, try 25g each of butter and flour and 500ml of milk)

Image of chopped fresh parsley


Put the ham in a large saucepan, cover with cold water, put on a lid and bring to the boil. Drain and discard the water. This ensures the ham won’t be too salty. It also gets rid of any scum early on – you shouldn’t need to skim it later.

Add the vegetables, the stalks from the parsley, the bay leaves and peppercorns to the pan with the ham and cover with 50-50 apple juice and water (or a bottle of cider topped up with cold water). Bring to the boil again, reduce to a simmer, partially cover with a lid and cook for about an hour.

Image of ham with stock vegetablesWhile it’s cooking, make the sauce. Strain the milk and keep warm. In another saucepan, melt the butter then stir in the flour. Cook gently for a minute or so.¬†Gradually add the milk, stirring until smooth. Season and stir in at least a double handful of chopped fresh parsley.

Drain the ham; check the stock and if it’s not too salty save it to make a soup or the basis for a pork stew.

Allow the ham to rest for 15-20 minutes somewhere warm, then carve it in thickish slices and serve with the parsley sauce. It’s good with boiled potatoes and steamed cabbage or spring greens.

NB: if you’re cooking it to eat cold, let it cool in the stock, it’ll keep it juicy. If, unlike mine, yours still has the skin on, just peel it off, leaving behind a layer of fat and then roll it in toasted breadcrumbs.

Image of cooked ham

8 thoughts on “Ham With Parsley Sauce

  1. Brilliant, a proper traditional Suffolk dish – my dad loved this served with dumplings cooked in the stock.
    I make the stock up into pea soup, with bits of the ham scattered on top.
    I often boil up a big gammon – nothing ever goes to waste as my family love it cold for breakfast with eggs.

  2. I’m embarrassed to say I never knew the word gammon, only a vague sense of having seen it somewhere in Dickens. Thanks for the language lesson. Parsley bechamel! Something else I’ve never encountered–to be honest, I’ve never boiled a ham either–although all of this gives the impression of being good solid Sunday food. Now you’ve got me intrigued again. Thanks. Ken

  3. Sometimes the differences on either side of the Atlantic surprise me – these are both really traditional old English recipes, which I’d have half expected to travel on the Mayflower (although I can’t vouch for them going that far back). Boiling a ham comes into Hannah Glasse’s Art of Cookery, published in England in 1747, the first American edition being 1805.
    PS Technically, in UK terms, ham is first cut off the carcass and then smoked, salted or dried (or a combination of these) for preservation. Gammon is cured as part of a side of bacon and cut off afterwards. Not that anyone knows the difference really!

  4. Delicious. My dad’s favourite is parsley sauce but he has always had to make it himself as my mum detests it! Love a slice of ham, whether hot with chips and a runny egg or cold with cheese and chutney.

    • I know how he feels, we’re like Jack Spratt and his wife over pasta and liver (not together). He hates them, I love them, so I usually wait until he’s away before I indulge.
      Ham is so versatile, love it in a pie too. I really must stop eating so many pies.

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