Ham has been one of the first agricultural exports of North America and an important food item in the country. Therefore, it is no surprise that everyone wants to know about dry curing ham in order to treat your guests to a lavish spread any time. You can learn how to do it by reading on.
To start your dry cure of ham, you need to start by selecting a good ham. Pick up a high-quality ham, which is fresh and has come from a young hog. If possible, ensure that the hog had a desirable lean-to-fat ratio. Purchase a ham only from a retail store or local butcher who is certified by an authority like the US Department of Agriculture or the State Meat Inspection Service. For dry curing, you need a long, thick cushion of ham, preferably a deep, wide butt face, which has the least amount of external fat.
Before you begin with the curing procedure, make sure that the ham has been kept properly chilled, preferably at temperature below 40° F.
While most of those who cure ham at home go only with salt, but you can always experiment with a few more ingredients and decide what works best for you. Ideally, for a 100 pounds of fresh ham, you would need 8 pounds of salt, 2 pounds of sugar, and 2 ounces of saltpetre. Mix all these ingredients well and divide them into two equal batches. You will be using the first batch on the first day of the curing and second batch will be used the next day.
The curing mixture should be rubbed thoroughly into the surface of the meat, especially on the lean surfaces because the skin and fat surface will allow the least absorption of the salt mixture. Therefore, whatever you will be able to push through the lean surface will be what works as a cure for the meat.
After applying the first batch of the curing mixture, keep the ham on wooden shelf or in a wooden bin but take care not to use a fragrant wood like pine because the ham, or any meat, has a tendency to absorb flavors from its surroundings.
As far as ham is concerned, you need to cure it on the basis of seven days per inch of cushion depth or one and a half days per pound. You need to keep accurate record of this proportion so that you do not over or under-cure the ham.
Once you are satisfied that your ham is cured enough, just remove the curing mixture by simple washing. You may use a hard brush to remove any traces of the cure from within the crevices on the meat surface. Allow the meat to dry before storing it in an environment of 50 to 60° F for about a fortnight.
Now that you have learned how to dry cure ham, go get yourself a good cut and get going. Do write in to share your experiences with us. In case of any doubts, watch this video. Just remember, a cured ham can be turned into a very tasty dish.
Image Courtesy: pubs.ext.vt.edu
Video Courtesy: youtube.com