posted on Dec, 10 2011 @ 12:03 PM
I have invested in pigs...pork/ham. I have 2 hogs...a boar and a sow that is pregnant and will hopefully provide between 8-12 piglets come spring.
I have 5 more small pigs...one which will become a suckling pig very soon.
The hams actually are the two hind legs, so you will get only two per hog... the front legs or shoulders are called pic nic hams... less fleshy and
fat, with more grissel....
The hams are preferred because they are very meaty and if raised right very fat and marbled with fat... despite what people have heard, fat is
important for flavor and for keeping the ham moist after the curing process.
The process is labor intensive, yet simple, and takes approximately about 2-3 months to complete in order for the curing to finish over a period of
Basically, pick a very cold day... usually around Xmas or New Years and after the hog is killed, you cut off the hams...this is so easily said, but is
a full day of work just butchering a hog.... anyway, you take the hams...have a shed or a smoke house or curing house that is up off the ground and
relatively secure.... set the hams up on a table or very wide work shelf...a scrap piece of plywood up on saw horses works well...anyway, lay the
hams down, cut shoulder side up and literally cover the entire hams in salt...this may take 30-50 lbs of salt. It is a good idea to fix the
plywood/saw horse table almost like a sand box so as not to waste the salt...gently rub it into the meat, literally massage the salt into the meat..
all the cut areas, skin, edges...all over...then pile the salt onto the ham and cover with either an old pillow case or cheese cloth or sheet and
leave. The important things to note is air flow and cold temps... I suggest looking at old smoke houses or curing houses as set up in the old south on
farms and farm complexes...it would be a good idea to cover any openings with screen or cover the hams lightly with cloth so as to keep out any
insects... and up off the floor/ ground to keep away possums, raccoons, scavengers...
Next day... go in to the smoke house and rub the salt into the hams again... gently...just like rubbing a baby with powders...again, emphasizing the
cut shoulder and hock areas...there will be no skin there and so the salt soaks in faster...
do this every day for a month...usually I do it at new Years and cure the hams beginning of January...easy to keep up with...
Come the second month...wash the ham gently, cover with salt...repeating the above process once a week...always leaving the hams completely immersed
The reason the salt is important is that it forces out moisture...moisture is needed to keep bacteria alive... no moisture...no bacteria..no rotting
of meat. The salt is also drawn into the flesh/meat...preserving the meat.
At the end of the secon month, gently wash the hams...just like a baby. Then dry carefully and completely...hanging in the air for a short while to
dry. Then coat them heavily with a mixture of salt, ground or crushed red cayenne pepper, black pepper, and borax...yup, 40 Mule Team Borax works
great..it is a natural mineral that is usually used to clean and wash clothes with... the above coating mixture ensures preservation and keeps out the
After coating the hams down with this mixture, gently wrap with wax paper, and insert into a cotton sleeve or bag...old pillow cases sewn to fit work
great. then hang in the rafters of the shed, smokehouse, or curing house. Good airflow is essential... and a shed out of the sun and in the shade
would be very useful.
After that... periodically check to make sure all is well... about 6-9 months later, the ham is fully cured.
Here is the secret... let the ham age, just like a wine or cheese. Over time, the ham will start to be covered with a light film of mold.. this sounds
gross, but like cheese..it adds a significant flavor to the ham. Here in NC, Va, or all of the south, an aged ham is highly prized and often sold at
auctions, raffles, and fund raisers. A ham that is 3 or so years old has a very distinct and rich flavor that ...well, damn good.
I know all of this to be true, because I do this... have done it for several years and learned it from my daddy and from notes from the FoxFire series
of books. There was a time when a man's wealth and well being was represented by the hams hanging in his smoke house... and a fine ham maker was well
known and in much demand. A good country ham of this sort can bring 5.00 a lb or better... and consider that on home raised hogs a single ham may
weigh over 50lbs when cured... I am talking about hogs weighing about 500lbs and can stand 6 ft at time of butchering and a dressed fresh ham may
weigh over 100 lbs.
The only drawback is salt...too much and your blood pressure shoots up, so soak it before cooking it. Fry and serve with big ol' fresh bisquits, red
eye gravy, and grits... enjoy.