According To Smoky
Curing Holiday Hams
Beware, this may become
a Christmas tradition
Welcome to According to Smoky. Here you will find the latest and greatest from C. Clark "Smoky" Hale notable 'baster', author, publisher, television star in both the barbecue and 'the real' world. And yes, he is a real person and not the webmaster.
Smoky will be offering his talents, techniques and secrets discovered over the last 150 years, or so. He will be to the point, pull no punches and if you suffer through the process, you will become a much better outdoor cook, turning out masterpiece meals for friends and family alike.
His next lesson centers around the holidays. We've all bought those smoked hams and wondered how they were done. Now Smoky lets us in on the secret - just in time for the holidays. His insite makes the process less complicated and managable for those who are a little more ambitious. We will archive each article so viewers can catch up with him.
So, with no further adieu, we turn the mike to Smoky. You're on Smoky . . . . .
CURING THE HOLIDAY HAM
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° 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
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.
Continued on Page 2
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