Okay guys, I should have done a long time ago.
I cured and smoked some hams quite a few years ago and a friend wanted the recipe and curing process. I wrote up a Word document for him that was very remedial and somewhat picking at him. He is a good guy but had no idea what he was doing, but with the instructions, he pulled it off on his first try. So here it is. I've done some editing so hopefully y'all don't think I'm a wiseass and to make changes in how I do it now. I've done quite a few hams since then and so far this has been pretty well foolproof or I wouldn't be putting it out there.
Now this is a true story. I took one of these hams for Christmas dinner one year when the family "Vegan" blessed us with her appearance all the way from Portland Oregon. Once it was announced that the ham was alive and well only about a week before, she sat there in her seat looking very uncomfortable. But she had questions.
So that's a wild boar?
Yes, but we call them feral pigs here.
And you killed it?
Yes, I shot it right in the ear hole.
Oh..., well what do you do once you shoot them?
Do you want the long version?
This went on pretty much the whole time we were eating. Everyone else smacking their lips and going on about how good it was.
After dinner, I told my MIL that I was going to leave the leftovers since we were going back over there the next day. Since the Vegan wasn't going back to Portland for a few days, it was polite to go for another visit. There was plenty of ham for sandwiches for everyone willing.
We get over there the next day, I can't wait for a ham sandwich. Open the fridge and there is hardly any ham left!
WTH? Did y'all eat again last night? MIL swears they didn't. She comes to the kitchen to see for herself. We just started laughing, realizing that the Vegan couldn't stand it and had to sneak into the kitchen in the middle of the night to see for herself and couldn't stop once she got started.
Nary a peep out of that one.
So here it is. It's really pretty easy. Mostly just prep work then it sits in the fridge for a week or so. I will reverse engineer it so that it's ready to smoke on a Saturday. Just make sure you have all of your ingredients and utensils and it should go smoothly. Hope y'all enjoy it.
2 liters of Hot water
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
¾ cup of kosher salt
4 teaspoons Insta-Cure #1 (pink salt) Academy has it by their BBQ rubs or SausageMaker.com
2 cups white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly
You can debone your ham or leave the bone in, but the bone will give it more flavor while cooking. If you debone it, you can get nets from SausageMaker.com. You can fold your ham up and put it in the net while cooking and it will make a nice looking round ham. I wouldn't put it in the net until after curing.
I doubled the brine recipe. With two small hams, it filled a 2 gallon Zip-Lock bag full.
Mix all of the ingredients for the brine and boil until all salt and sugar is dissolved. Refrigerate overnight. Remove the aitch bone if necessary (You can Google it, but the way we as hunters normally cut the leg off eliminates this bone. It’s half of the pelvic bone left when the hind quarters are split with a meat saw)
Weigh your hams carefully. They will cure at about 2lb per day.
Place hams in two gallon Zip-Lock bag, I did both hams from a 75lb pig, about 15lbs total and they both fit in one bag. (I no longer cure 2 hams in the same bag. If they are small enough, just use a gallon bag for each one) My wife found the two gallon bags at Wal-Mart but said they weren’t by the other Zip-Locks, they were by the storage containers???
Using a meat injector, inject about 1 cup of cold brine per pound into the meat around the bone working all around the bone. Also, if you can locate the cut end of the femoral artery near the ball on the femur bone, that can be used to inject some of the brine deep into the muscles. It's kind of tedious though. I have just had better luck injecting brine making sure it is all around the bone and deeper in the meat. I want to make sure that it is cured fully. I did a larger ham once without injecting and ended up with cured ham on the outside and pork roast closer to the bone, so I worry about it. You'll want to do the injecting in a container that is plenty large enough to contain the ham. It can get messy. Also, use a plastic container. From what I understand, the cure will react with metal.
If you deboned your ham, you can skip the injection process.
At this point I put the bag in a small ice chest that will fit in my fridge. Mine is a 12 quart Igloo lunch box size cooler. You could also use a clean plastic dish washing tub.
Pour the remaining cold brine over the hams in the bag. Too much brine is better than not enough. Your bag should be as full with brine as possible. It is very important to keep the hams completely submerged. Crack the corner of the bag open and push any air out then close the bag.
Set it in the fridge and let it go. I rotate the bag within the ice chest every day before work and again in the evening. It will not hurt to leave them an extra day or two, but a minimum of 1 day (24hrs) per 2lbs of meat.
Once they have cured, discard the brine and rinse the hams and the bag. Replace the hams in the bag and cover them with clean cold ice water and let them soak in the fridge for about 8-12 hours to leach out some of the salt. The longer they soak the less salty your ham will be. I leave them for about 12 hours and they are just right for my taste. If you like your ham really salty you can skip the leaching process all together, just rinse the outside well. You'll have to experiment with this for your taste but I recommend leaching them for a least 6-8 hours
After rinsing, pat them dry with paper towels. Line a cookie sheet with paper towels then set a wire cookie cooling rack on top of the lined cookie sheet. Set your ham on the rack and place in the fridge uncovered for 24-36hrs. The ham will form a pellicle (skin) which aids in smoking and will give the finished ham a nice appearance.
Everyone has their own method for smoking. This is how I do it;
I use an offset stick burner. Set the hams out while you get your fire ready. I don’t like to put meat on the smoker straight out of the fridge.
Smoke on indirect heat at 225*-250* with hickory or pecan wood (or whatever wood you prefer) for about 4-6hrs. This gives plenty of smoke flavor.
After smoking, place the ham on a piece of Saran Wrap and coat the ham with sugar mixture. Split the recipe between the two hams or use it all on a big ham. Wrap the ham tightly in Saran Wrap making sure it is sealed. You may need a couple of pieces. Then wrap in foil. Put your cookie cooling rack in one of those disposable foil roasting pans then add water just up to the bottom of the rack. Put this back on the pit and continue to cook until the internal temp is 145*. Make sure to keep a little water in the pan. You can skip the sweet glaze if you prefer. You can also wait until you are ready to serve it and put the sugar mixture on and use a propane torch to melt and caramelize the sugar. This is the same process as the Honeybaked Ham copycat recipe. There is plenty of information online about it.
Total cook time should be about 8-10 hrs but temperature is the deciding factor, not time. The two small ones I did took a little over 9hrs from the time I put them on, got them wrapped and back on the pit, and reached 150*
After cooking, remove and let them rest, still wrapped, for about 30 min or longer before slicing. (I wrap mine in a towel and put them in a cooler. It keeps them hot while they rest) Or even better, let it cool to room temp then put it in the fridge overnight then reheat in the oven at 275*-300*. Something happens when allowing the ham to cool and then reheating, similar to a pot of stew tasting better the next day. Refrigerate any leftovers.
All of the cooking could be done in your oven at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes per pound or until internal temp of 145* you’ll just have a baked ham instead of smoked ham. You could also smoke it then finish in the oven. Just wrap it and put in a pan of water as mentioned.
I have read anywhere from 140* to 160* but I know that at 150* the small hams got a bit dry. You can be the judge, but I would not go lower than 140*. If you plan to re-heat, take them to 130*-135* initially then take them to 140*-145* when re-heating. There is a USDA chart that recommends time and temperature for curing meats. It gives the duration the meat needs to be held at for a given temperature to be "safe". You will see a lot of recommendations that poultry and pork needs to reach 165*, but at 165* it needs zero minutes. I don't remember the exact particulars but if you take your ham to 140* then let it rest wrapped in a cooler for at least 30 minutes, that exceeds the USDA recommendation. The higher the temperature the less time it needs.
The hams freeze easily and can be thawed/reheated later. I recommend vacuum sealing them.
*Measure your water and curing salt carefully. Too much cure is just as bad as not enough and it will make you sick either way.
*Weigh your hams carefully. They need at least 1 day (24hrs) per 2 pounds. Leaving them an extra day is okay just don't remove them from the brine too soon.
*Use plastic containers not metal
*Keep the hams completely submerged for the duration of the curing process.
*Keep the hams, brine and leaching water COLD until you are ready to cook them.
*Use a thermometer. Do no rely on cooking time