Can you stir sugar into a cup of coffee?
Can you leave something be in the fridge?
Can you close your eyes and touch your nose?
If you answered yes to either of the top two questions then you can cure your own ham.
If you answered in the negative on the third then you’re drunk, but, the good news is that you can cure a ham with only one eye open.
Ham’s always been a favorite of mine. I don’t remember my first bite of ham but I’ll bet I got the finger of the fool feeding it to me. This is the recipe that will change your life. Ham seems a mystery to most but if you have a two pound hunk of pork then you’re well on your way to your first ham. How? Stir a few powders and spices into a couple quarts of water, set the meat to swimmin’ for a few days then it’s ‘this little piggy comes home’ time.
Will you save money by curing your own ham? I can honestly say no. And yes.
No, you’ll not save money if you’re comparing the price against consumer-grade chopped and formed ‘ham and water product’ hams. Yeah, I actually saw that label on a “ham” at the market. 12% water content, said water costs you about three bucks a pound. Do the math, Bucky, that’s $24 a pound. That’s why we use gasoline in our cars and not ham juice. But when you consider quality and provenance then YES, you are saving money. You will not find ham of this quality at any price. This is premium ham. You choose the cut, you choose the amount of spices and seasonings and you choose the kind of smoke (or choose not). And you know exactly where it came from and what’s in it. Commercial hams bob cheek by jowl in giant impersonal stainless steel troughs in an industrial fluid of unknown composition. It’s like a swimming pool for pigs, a real crowded one. The little hams we’ll be making here will be no more than two or three at a time, more like a hot tub for hams.
It’s time to cut the gabbing and make us some ham! The ingredients are simple and I ain’t gonna be telling you to use all kinds of pretentious bullshit like hand-rubbed sea salt and high altitude sugar from the hinterlands of Peru. Use whatever salt you like or have on hand. Iodized is just fine. I’ve used it without incident. I like to use kosher salt myself but you can go with any kind of salt you like. Ditto for the rest of everything.
Do it like this:
Your Own Damn Ham
2 quarts of water
3/4 cup of salt
1 cup of sugar
1 Tbsp of curing salts (cure #1, not #2)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup of molasses
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
7 to 10 whole cloves
WTF are curing salts? They’re a blend of sodium nitrite and sea salt and it’s bright pink. You can find it on eBay, we buy it two pounds at a time and it’s cheap. Ten bucks worth will keep you in ham for a year or two. Be sure not to get #2 curing salts. That’s sodium nitrate and is made for dry curing meats like salami.
And don’t worry about nitrites and health. You get more nitrites from a serving of celery than a serving of bacon. That’s why they use celery juice in so called “uncured” bacon. Guess what, folks, you’ve been buying cured bacon and paying extra for a fiction.
Got a 2-gallon bucket? Find one at a hardware store or hit up a restaurant supply place in your town for an NSF certified 2-gallon bucket.
Stir everything together in the bucket.
Place your pork shoulder, sirloin roast, tenderloin, or other cut(s) of pork into the brine.
Put it in the fridge.
Rearrange the hams once a day so the parts up against the bucket face the other way. We’re trying to get all the surfaces exposed over the next few days.
After five days, pull ’em out! If you want a strong ham flavor then go to the next step. If you want it a bit less salty then fill the bucket with fresh water and let ’em sit in the fridge for an extra day.
Now let’s cook it!
We’ve got a choice, smoked or not smoked.
If you don’t have a smoker it’s no problem, my first few weren’t smoked and I even rubbed liquid smoke on one and it was just fine.
For those of you without a smoker: rinse the ham then dry it with a towel. Wrap the ham in two layers of aluminum foil. You want it as sealed as possible but not touching the top else the juices will squirt out of the foil. It’ll keep it moister PLUS you get all the ham juice that cooks out. More on that later.
Put it in a 225F oven and go do something else for 2-1/2 to 3 hours or whatever it takes to bring it to 165F inside the thickest part.
I’ve let mine go for 12 hours at 200f and I’d swear it was a country ham, firm and dryer than your run of the mill ham.
Next, eat it. You’re done.
I only have a cold smoker, a Big Chief front-loader donated to FoxfurAmused by a reader, but it gives ham a smoked flavor indistinguishable from a hot-smoked ham. I put it in and smoke it with 2 pans of alder or applewood. Use whatever tickles your tastebuds. After cold smoking pop the ham into the oven following the directions above.
You can make a cold smoker using nothing more than a soup can full of smoker wood chips with a soldering iron shoved into it and covered with a cardboard box.
If you have a hot smoker then you already know how to cook a ham. Go to smokingmeatforums.com for tips if you don’t.
Now get on eBay or Amazon and order up some cure #1 curing salts and a bucket and make some ham! It’s even easier than it seems.
A few last things.
Seasonings, use ’em! I typically use cumin, ground dried ginger and cloves. The last one I made had rosemary, coriander, and maple syrup, fu*king fantastic! There’s two curing in the fridge as we speak swimming around with star anise, cloves, and dried allspice berries, crushed. I suppose you could use fresh ginger but I prefer the stronger flavor of the dried stuff and I think you will too. You can use pickling spice like a boiled ham or use none at all and taste a naked ham.
Ham Juice! The juices that cook out will be sealed up in the foil. DO NOT waste the juice! Make up a batch of split pea soup (recipe on this blog, just use the search) and substitute part of the water with it. Then make up a pan of my simple cornbread (it’s on my blog as well) and shove it all into your mouth at once.
This is simple, folks! If there’s something you lack besides curing salts, make it up as you go along. So long as it’s cured with the salts and cooked, you’re just fine.
Get creative with it and please do post your results in the comments, you might just give me a new idea.
Should the porks be a virgin?
Posting on FB to all my friends on how great my ham is, thanks to you. Got a Slow and Sear and drip pan from amazingribs.com after searching for charcoal grill reviews. We have a Weber kettle at least 40 years old. The parts got here just in time to smoke the bacon and ham. The wireless thermometer has a probes for grill temp and meat temp. I used to run back and forth adjusting the fire. This time, three hours with one small draft adjustment. I’d bought 15 pounds each of pork belly and pork shoulder butt at Costco. Make up your minds, is it shoulder or butt? Will post photos on FB. If you have a Weber kettle, get these add ons and go to it!
I’m very glad to hear that! Thanks for letting me know I’m doing something good for a change…