Home-Cured Ham Recipe
If you have not tried out your curing skills on a loin, I would advise you to do so before trying a ham. A refrigerated room is of course ideal, but few of us have access to such a facility. Nature’s time for curing is late autumn/early winter, when temperatures have dropped. This is when pigs, before the introduction of refrigeration, were slaughtered and is the safest time to do home curing. The low temperatures will guarantee good results. If you are thinking of seriously getting involved in curing hams, it is advisable to invest in a brine pump. A ham is a very thick piece of meat and it is essential that the brine penetrates to the very core, otherwise the meat will rot. A meat safe would be advisable, too. Otherwise, make sure you use a cool, airy place and that you hang the ham so that the air can circulate around it. You will need to wrap it in muslin or dip in a thin layer of lard and black pepper to ward off the flies. And remember the ultimate ham test: your nose will tell you if the cure is good or bad.
21 pints (10 litres) water or half water and half ale or cider
18 lb. locally sourced ham to home cure (explain to your butcher or supplier what you want it for; it will have to be ordered especially)
2-1/4 cups curing salt, or 2-1/4 cups coarse sea salt and 2 tbsp saltpeter mixed
Scant 1 cup Demerara sugar
1 bouquet garni
2 tsp whole pickling spice
Step 1: Put half the liquid in a large saucepan with the remaining ingredients and bring gently to the boil. Simmer until the salt and sugar has dissolved.
Step 2: Leave to cool and then stir in the rest of the liquid. Stab the ham all over with a sharp knife or skewer to the very centre of the meat. Fill the pump with brine and inject the brine into the thickest parts of the ham, in and around the bone.
Step 3: Put the ham in a large, non-corrosive container and add the cooled brine to cover. Put a weight over the meat to ensure that it is completely immersed. If the ham is not completely immersed, you will need to make extra brine. Put the container in the fridge, cool larder or a cold cellar and leave for 3 weeks.
Step 4: After that time, remove the ham from the brine, rinse and drain, wipe and dry it, then hang in a refrigerated room or meat safe. Alternatively, wrap in muslin or immerse in a solution of lard and black pepper, then hang in a cool, airy cellar or outhouse for 1 month. Either roast or boil the ham to serve.
Reprinted with permission from Lindy Wildsmith's Cured (2010 Jacqui Small).