Have you ever used canned ham? With a wonderful harvest of Jamaican Callaloo (chorai bhagi | amaranth) from my garden, I decided to put canned ham to use… to add some additional flavor to one of my favorite dishes. I always plant, Spinach, Collard, Jamaican Callaloo, Bok Choi and/or Swiss Chard in my garden every year, such is my luv for ‘greens’. Traditionally I grew up eating Jamaican callaloo cooked with pieces of salted cod (saltfish) and simmered in coconut milk. And while that recipe is indeed a classic, this one is just as tasty.
6-8 cups Jamaican callaloo (prepared)
1 can chopped ham (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoon olive oil (or coconut oil)
1/2 medium onion (sliced)
3 sprigs thyme
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 small spicy pepper (your choice)
1/3 teaspoon salt (adjust)
1/2 cup diced tomato (I used grape tomatoes from my garden)
1 teaspoon lime or lemon juice
2 cloves garlic (diced)
Wash and trim off the flowers and thick stems from the callaloo (discard), then separate the leaves from the stems (tender stems). Roll the leaves together and chop it about 1/4 of an inch ribbons. Trim off the skin off the tender stems and chop the now cleaned stems about 1/4 inch as well. Wash everything again and allow to drain.
Heat the oil in a wide pan on a medium flame, the add the onion, garlic, thyme, black pepper and spicy pepper (I used a scotch bonnet). Turn the heat down to low and cook gently for 3-4 minutes.
Remove the ham from the can, drain well and give it a quick rinse under cool water. Then dice into 1/4 inch pieces and add to the pot. Turn the heat up to low/medium and cook for about 5 minutes. The goal is to render out some of the fat and to brown the edges of the ham.
Turn the heat to medium/high and start adding the trimmed/washed callaloo to the pot. Stir well. It will wilt down so don’t stress about it all not fitting in the pot.
Since the ham will already have some salt, you can add the salt now.. but taste later on to make sure it’s enough to your liking. Turn the heat down to med/low, cover the pot and cook for about 8 minutes. After that it’s time to add the diced tomato and lemon juice and cook with the lid off until all the liquid (it will spring naturally) is burnt off. Depending on how ‘cooked’ you like your callaloo, you may need to leave the lid on a bit longer with the lid on.
I gave it a further 6 minutes after I removed the lid off the pot. While not the traditional way of cooking Jamaican callaloo with saltfish, this ham version is quite tasty and well worth the test-drive. If pork is not your thing you can always use smoked turkey or salted cod as in the traditional recipe.
Do you own a copy of my cookbook ?- The Vibrant Caribbean Pot 100 Traditional And Fusion recipes Vol 2