How to Cure and Smoke Your Own Ham
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.
- 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.
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.
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
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
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