Other Smoked ham

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Michi

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This recipe shows you how to make your own smoked and cooked ham. You can use pretty much any cut of mostly lean pork without too much fat and a fair amount of large muscle, such as leg of ham, shoulder, neck, or loin.

The glaze is (of course) optional, and the spices can be varied to taste. For example, mustard seed, coriander, caraway, cloves, or cinnamon could be added or substituted. You can also emphasise some of the spices according to taste, such as doubling the juniper berries for a more earthy taste.

The resulting ham is at least as good as what can be bought in a store, definitely better than most commercially cured hams.

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Equipment:
You will need a brine injector, a vacuum sealer or a ham press, and a Sous Vide machine. For brining, either seal the meat in a vacuum bag, or use a container that is large enough for the brine to fully cover the meat.

Ingredients:
You will need enough brine to completely cover the ham. If brining in a vacuum bag, considerably less brine is needed. (I used 1 litre for 2.2 kg of ham.)

Per litre of brine:
  • 1 l water
  • 10 g cure #1 (6.5% nitrite content)
  • 95 g salt
  • 3 g coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 smashed juniper berries
  • 0.5 g dried marjoram
  • 1 g garlic powder or granules
  • 1 g onion powder or granules
  • 1 tbsp brown or dark brown sugar (or use 1 tbsp honey)
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Preparation:
  1. Add the water and the spices (except for the cure #1 and salt) to a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes and cool down to room temperature.
  2. While the brine cools, remove the skin from the meat. I suggest leaving some fat; you will get a more flavourful product with better mouth feel that way. (Of course, if you are averse to eating pork fat, you can trim off as much of the the exterior fat as you prefer.)
  3. Truss up the meat with butcher's twine so it forms a nice compact piece.
  4. Once cooled, pour the brine through a fine sieve and discard the solids.
  5. Dissolve the cure #1 and salt in the brine.
  6. Inject the meat with the brine. Try to get 15-20% of the meat weight in brine into the meat, injecting at about one-inch spacing. Some of the brine will probably squirt out through various holes and openings. Not a big deal: the idea is to have a good amount of brine inside the meat, so it cures faster and more evenly.
  7. Either seal the meat plus all of the brine in a vacuum bag, or place the meat into a sealable container and pour all of the brine over it. It is important for the meat to be completely covered in brine. If need be, put a weight on top of the meat to keep it submerged.
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  8. Cure the meat for 3 days. For a large piece of meat (4 kg or more), I'd give it 4-5 days. A little longer won't do any harm, but not curing long enough is a problem. I left my 2.2 kg piece in the brine for 3 days. Turn/massage the meat once or twice a day to make sure that the brine reaches all parts.

    If, after the first time, you find that the ham is not salty enough (or too salty) for your taste, adjust the salt content (but not the amount of cure). It pays to keep notes, noting the size of the meat, amount of salt, and brining time. For safety's sake, I would not go lower than 75 g of salt per litre of brine. (That amount will result in a ham that is probably too bland for most people.)

    If you find a grey patch in the meat when slicing it, that is a sure-fire indication that the brining time was too short. If this happens to you, just eat the ham in the next few days or freeze it, and leave the meat in the brine for longer next time you make it.
  9. Once cured, remove the meat from the brine and pat it dry.
  10. Smoke at 70 ºC for 2 hours.
  11. Tightly re-seal the meat in a fresh vacuum bag or put it into a ham press (wrapped in some heat-resistant food-grade plastic) and cook at 70 ºC until the core temperature reaches 65 ºC.

    If you don't have a core thermometer that you can seal in with the meat, just eye-ball the time. I had mine in the sous vide for 3.5 hours. For a larger piece, I'd give it 4 or 5 hours (or use this table of heating times).
    IMG_4791.jpeg
  12. Let the ham cool in the fridge overnight (still in the bag or press) before slicing.
  13. Optional step: If you prefer a stronger smoke flavour, cold-smoke the ham for a few hours after it has cooled.
Glaze:
  1. Mix some dark brown sugar and maple syrup into a viscous paste (a little thicker than honey).
  2. Baste the ham with the maple glaze.
  3. With a gas torch, caramelise the glaze. Be careful to not burn the sugar to the point where it becomes bitter.
I didn't use a glaze this time, so the image below shows the unglazed ham after cooling overnight.

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Your ham looks absolutely delicious! Need to cook it soon! What ham press did you use for this perfect ham?
 
Your ham looks absolutely delicious! Need to cook it soon! What ham press did you use for this perfect ham?
No ham press. I just trussed up the meat and vacuum sealed it. The pressure from the vacuum helps to keep everything in a nice bundle.
 
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