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Topic: Smoked Ham Recipe . . . . From: Lionel,
Subject: Re: Curing Hams
When you say, "..smoked ham recipe," do you mean 1. A recipe for smoke curing ham? 2. A recipe for cooking smoked ham on the grill? 3. A recipe for cooking a green (uncured) ham on the grill?
Selection #1, recipe for smoke curing hams. I'll be butchering two hogs around Christmas time.
Happy to hear someone is learning old techniques. Curing hams is considerably less trouble than one would think and the rewards great and various. Curing and smoking are two separate operations, however. A ham which had not been properly cured could not be preserved by smoking alone. Smoking, in this case, is cold smoking, performed at 70-90* F.
You need a thermometer long enough to reach the center and accurate scales. You will also need container/containers to hold the hams which are non-reactive (wood, plastic, stainless steel) which have either porous platforms in the bottom or drain holes and, of course, a smoke house.
Separate out the hams (and shoulders) leaving the skin intact. Hams keep better with the skin on. The next, and very important step, is to chill the meat until it reaches 33-35 degrees F. in the center - but don't let it freeze. An almost empty fridge at the lowest temperature setting, a freezer or a local meat shop will do the job in 1-2 days. If the outside temperature hovers about freezing the chilling can be done outside. If if rises, put the hams in a wooden or plastic container on chunks of ice laced with coarse salt and cover with additional chunks of ice interlaced with coarse salt. Add water to cover.
There are two basic methods of curing, dry curing and brine curing. Dry curing is the simpler and, in my estimation, produces a better tasting end product.
Mix a curing rub of 8 lbs non-iodized salt, 2 lbs of sugar and 2 oz of Saltpeter (potassium nitrate) per 100 lbs of meat - the classic 8-2-2 recipe. Mix thoroughly, separate out 1/2 and reserve. The salt removes moisture from the meat and reduces some bacterial action. The sugar is a preservative, but also acts, in this case, to ameliorate the toughening effects of the salt. Brown sugar, molasses or honey may be added or substituted. Other seasonings and spices may be added. The Saltpeter fixes the red color and retards some bacteria and enzymes. Morton Salt, among others makes a ready mix for curing. If you use one, make certain that it is for dry curing and follow the directions carefully.
Clean, dry and trim all extraneous parts and residue from the hams. Weigh each ham accurately. Each ham should receive rub equal to 5% of its weight. Carefully weigh out the appropriate amount of the curing mixture. In a container large enough to easily hold the ham, rub the mix forcefully into all surfaces, especially the hock and the cut face of the butt. Use all the allotted mixture. Place the ham gently in its box/container. Continue with the other hams and shoulders. If you are putting more than one to a container, put the larger on the bottom. Cover with cloth and store in the 35-45* F range. Do not let it freeze.
In three days, use the remaining mixture, in the same proportions, and, meat from each container should be reversed, top to bottom. If you do not intend to keep the meat for more than 3 months, this second application can be reduced by 50%, but, if there is any question, use it all.
Meat should cure for 2 days per pound for large (10+ lbs ) pieces, but smaller pieces, such as bacon require only 1 1/2 days per pound. Curing time is influenced by temperature in that it cures faster at higher temperatures and stops curing at all at 34°F.
After, the cure is complete, remove, scrub thoroughly clean and dry and rub with fresh black pepper. Make an opening at the shank and insert a strong cotton cord and hang overnight to drain. Hang in your smoke house and apply a gentle cold smoke (70-90° F.) 5-7 hours per day for 3-4 weeks. Longer is okay. Hams may be hot smoked at 100-120°F, but they will not preserve as long and will not have the same flavor. Use green hickory, maple, oak, ash, apple or pecan wood or sawdust. The smoke should not be dense nor the amount great and the fire should not flame. An 8x8 inch coal bed will be ample. Try to produce a deep amber, rather than a black, color.
During the slow smoking, moisture is driven from the meat, preserving it as well as producing a mellow flavor. It is permissible and desirable, after a week or so, to cut and use portions of the meat while the rest is left hanging. Meat cured in this manner may be left in the smokehouse for at least a year.
Beware, Lee, this may become a Christmas tradition.