Making Ham at Home

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There are few things more delicious than ham. With the holidays approaching and a season of hectic activity brewing, a cold ham can be a godsend for those hurried family dinners, packed lunches, or a picnic event in a pinch. Store purchased hams can often be expensive, full of nitrates, or other undesirable flavors and textures. You can avoid this by making your own at home. The reasons many people do not make their own ham is because we have been led to believe that it’s too expensive, complicated or time-consuming. While it does take some time, brining and baking or boiling your own hams is surprisingly simple.

The Easy Approach

What you’ll need are a few simple kitchen items, a few ingredients, and a cut of pork. For home purposes, we recommend a smaller and more manageable pork loin roast, rather than the traditional haunch or upper portion of the hind leg. This can weigh as much as 25 lbs, and may prove to be more of a challenge than most home chefs can tackle. While you can choose your favorite method of cooking, such as smoking, baking or boiling, it’s the brining process that intimidates most people. We’ll cover this step first and fill in the details of what comes next, later.

A Note on Cures

A curing agent should be employed when making your own hams. However, if you’re unfamiliar with processing meats such as sausage, you’ll want to investigate curing agents. They function to keep the meat a pleasingly pink shade, rather than allowing it to turn gray during the brining process, as any meat naturally will. As well, curing agents inhibit the growth of dangerous bacteria that can develop in meats that are brined, smoked, or otherwise stored. It’s an important step to ensure a safe and successful brining experience.

Kitchen Implements You’ll Need:

A plastic or stainless steel bucket large enough to accommodate brine and meat.

(Seriously, that’s it.)

Brine Ingredients:

  • 3.5 to 4 Litres of water
  • ½ tsp whole cloves
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup Prague #1
  • 1 cup pickling salt
  • 1 tsp pickling spice

Cool the brine to 4 degrees Celcius before submerging your pork roast. You’ll want to keep the temperature below this threshold, but above 38 degrees Fahrenheit, during the entire brining process, so make room in your fridge. You can periodically check the temperature with a meat thermometer. Depending on your personal tastes, you’ll want to brine the meat for around four days for a five-pound roast. The longer the brining period, the saltier the meat will be.

Once this is accomplished, you can boil, bake, or smoke your finished ham in any way that pleases you. The ideal internal temperature for a fully cooked ham is 68.5 degrees Celcius. The finished ham will keep in your fridge for several weeks; though you can freeze it, most experts advise against it, because it leads to a dry finished product when thawed. Enjoy your ham in a variety of delicious ways for a fraction of the cost of a prepared ham, and add a novel experience to your kitchen repertoire at the same time!

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