Yes You Can: Cure and Smoke Your Own Ham!

Cure & Smoke Your Own Ham
I’m excited to share this post with you, because it was such a wonderful revelation that we could make the best ham we’ve ever had– at home, with relative ease. I want to know that you, can cure and smoke your own ham, too.  I am really picky about pork, and to be honest, wasn’t sure I’d like the ham well enough to do it again– but I was so curious about the process that I decided to give it a go, just for fun.  Well.  It turned out to be easy and incredibly delicious.  So much so, that I’ve already done it again.  So you should definitely try it!  The instructions may look a little daunting at first, but keep in mind that you’ll be doing this over a period of 1-2 weeks– it’s really not hard at all, I promise.

How to Cure and Smoke Your Own Ham

What You’ll Need for Curing

Equipment:
You will definitely need a kitchen scale for this project.  I have one like this, which is super easy to use and clean.
A medium-sized glass bowl, large enough to hold your cut of meat, plus a little extra space.
A ceramic ramekin or two to set the meat on inside the larger bowl.
Ingredients:

  • A nice piece of pork to cure, skin-on if possible– I have made three hams so far, all with a leg cut, deboned and bound with butcher’s twine
  • Sea Salt– finely ground (find it here)
  • Curing Salts, or Prague Powder (find it here)
  • (note: you can cure meat with out the curing salts, which contain nitrates, but you will not keep that nice pink color, and you have to be a little more careful about spoilage.)
  • Muscovado Sugar (find it here) or other flavorful natural sugar
  • Ground Allspice (find it here)
  • Ground Cardamon (find it here)
  • Ground Cloves (find it here)
  • Ground Black Pepper

*There is definitely room for you to monkey around with the spice blend!  I just made mine up based on what I thought would be good– the important elements are the salt, curing salts, and sugar.  Juniper berries and rosemary are a combination I’d love to incorporate next time.  That said, I really liked how the spice blend I chose came out, and you probably will, too.

What to Do:
1. It all begins with some math.  Start by weighing your piece of pork. You will mix your salts according to the amount of meat you will be curing.  It’s not hard, so even math-phobes can do it, I promise.  Get a calculator out if you need it.  For each kilogram of meat, you will use a mere 2.5g of the curing salts/ Prague Powder; 30g sea salt and 5g sugar.   Weigh that out and put it in a bowl.  Add about 1/4 tsp. of each of the spices you’ll be using.  This is pretty inexact, just don’t go crazy with the spices. Mix your curing blend together.

2.  Rub the salts all over your pork.  Get into all the nooks and crannies you can– the full amount should be used!  I had to open up the bottom part of the pork a little to press the mixture in.
3.  Set your ramekin(s) inside the glass bowl, and put your salty meat on it.  This is how you will let the moisture drain out of the pork and away from the meat.

4.  Put it inside your fridge, and let it cure.  Periodically drain the liquid away– honestly, I just drained mine once or twice.  This is the formula for deciding how long to let it cure for: The diameter of your piece of meat in inches + 3 days. (Example: 4 inch diameter ham would be 4+3= 7 days)  My smallest one took 6 days, and the largest 8 days.5.  Once you’ve reached the right number of days for your ham, take it out of the fridge, and give it a good rinse.  Get all of the curing solution off, and pat it dry with a clean dish towel.  Wash the bowl and ramekin, and set it back in the fridge for 3 days.
Now you’re ready to smoke it!
Note: Some mold is completely normal.  According to my butcher, white and gray molds are totally fine and even good, while green or blue are not.  Here’s what one of mine looked like before smoking:What You’ll Need for Smoking

Equipment

  • A simple kettle-style barbecue (like this.)  You can also use a gas grill– just look up  the instructions for that one, but it’s very similar.
  • Charcoal
  • Apple wood chips (find here)
  • A small pan that will fit inside your BBQ– (if it’s one you like, then you might want to line it with foil)
  • A meat thermometer (like this)
Ingredients
  • an onion, quartered
  • hard apple cider (or apple juice)– we used some cheap stuff that we don’t like that we had on hand– perfect!

1.  For the smoking instructions, I will refer you to this video, which I think is the clearest way to communicate this part!  Follow the instructions to get your smoker going.  Put your ham in there, and smoke it over indirect heat.  Plan on 40 minutes per pound, but you are done when the internal temp reaches 170º to 185º.

2.  Halfway through the smoking process (estimated according to weight) take the ham out and remove the skin (also now called the rind.) You’ll need a sharp knife and tongs for this.  Don’t cut off any more fat than you need to– it will be sweet and buttery, so you definitely want to keep it!

3.  Return it to the smoker to finish smoking.  Ours took about 2 hours.And… you’re done!  Let it rest and cool off, and then enjoy that beautiful ham.  It should keep for a week in the fridge.It’s the perfect food for picnics and hot summer meals when you don’t feel like doing much cooking.You’ll be so glad you cured and smoked your own ham, and be warned– you’ll be sorely disappointed with store-bought hams forever after.

For further reading check out my new favorite cookbook Food DIY, which has lots of really cool curing projects. If you are interested in butchery and charcuterie, I think you’ll love seeing photos from the lesson my butcher gave me on breaking down a pig.

Did you like this post? Pin it for later!Cure and Smoke Your Own HamPAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

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23 Responses to Yes You Can: Cure and Smoke Your Own Ham!

  1. Nathan August 3, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    Looks like something that I need to do. I love ham.

  2. Caterina B August 3, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

    Excellent! I am going to show this post to my hubby. I know he will want to do this and thanks for your directions. He has made sausage and bacon, but not ham. We always raise two pigs every summer and this year ours are going to be really big. He is talking about doing ALL the processing himself instead of sending the carcasses to a butcher shop. It just takes time and organization….and a LARGE table such as our dining table! Oh well, he has cut up many elk on it and there was no problem.

  3. tech.samaritan August 4, 2013 at 1:35 am #

    This will happen in my kitchen.

  4. Sue Schuster August 8, 2013 at 11:28 pm #

    We love ham. No doubt about it, I’ll have to try this. I have never smoked anything and always wanted to. Thanks for sharing.

  5. bellavistafarm August 10, 2013 at 11:57 pm #

    Very cool tutorial Ariana, thanks for sharing on Wildcrafting Wednesday this week. :)

  6. Hazel August 17, 2013 at 6:51 am #

    Looks delicious! I’ve made Guanciale but still haven’t got round to ham.

  7. James Reynolds August 29, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    I love cured and aged meats, the way the process enhances the flavor profiles are incredible. I’ve decided to build a curing fridge in my home, so I’ve been researching methods of how to build one as well as how to cure meat. I’ve also looked into several temperature measurement systems for my fridge, but I’m not too sure how heavy-duty they need to be.

  8. Kris Philpot September 28, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    Great article. Can you tell me do you scrape or wash the mold off before smoking or does it just burn away?

    • Ariana Mullins November 7, 2013 at 10:42 am #

      Kris, it will burn off. I usually slice off the very ends of the ham anyway, and between that and cutting the rind off, most of it is gone anyhow.

  9. kimara January 16, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    Can this be cooked any other way than smoked?

    • ariana March 6, 2014 at 10:38 am #

      Kimara, I haven’t done anything but smoked my hams, but You could definitely try baking or boiling. Let me know how it comes out!

  10. Jennifer @ The Sweet Plantain January 21, 2014 at 2:31 am #

    This looks amazing!

  11. Quinn March 6, 2014 at 1:54 am #

    After trying several recipes the past few years to make our own ham, this one is finally a winner! Thanks so much for this recipe!

    • ariana March 6, 2014 at 10:37 am #

      So glad to hear this, Quinn!!

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