• by Arielle Illia

Home Cured Holiday Ham


When Eric and I purchased a pig this past fall from a local farmer we opted to have the pig sent to a butcher for the processing but really wanted to give curing the bacon and hams a try on our own. We have made sausage, jerky, and smoked meats in the past but haven't explored the world of curing.


Curing is the process of adding salt to meat with the aim of drawing moisture out to deter unwanted bacteria growth and prevent spoilage, it also concentrates the flavor.


After successfully making bacon not too long ago, we decided to wet cure this delicious bone in ham and bake it for New Year's Eve. It was out of this world and I largely attribute that to all the beautiful fat.


If you're looking to venture into home curing, this is a simple recipe with just a few ingredients and a straightforward process to get you started on your conquest, and I promise it is so worth it.



For the recipe:

  • 1 (15 lb) bone in ham

  • 10 quarts water, divided

  • 3 1/2 cups kosher salt

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar

  • 1/2 tablespoon juniper berries

Instructions

1. Bring 2 quarts of water in a pot to a simmer, add salt, sugar, and juniper berries then put aside to cool once dissolved.



The salt ratio is critical in this recipe for the curing process, if you use pink salt (or curing salt) in addition that will be a different solution. Since we are brining the meat for a short period we are comfortable without the use of nitrates.


2. Score the ham using a sharp knife by slicing the fat along the sides in 1 inch segments, repeat this process going the opposite direction to create little squares or diamond shapes.



This helps the brine penetrate the meat.


3. Place ham into a food safe container, add cooled liquid with dissolved salt, sugar, and juniper berries.


We used a food safe bucket for this. Avoid metal containers as they are reactive.


4. Add remaining water (8 quarts) to the container, place an item over the ham to ensure it stays submerged.




We did this by adding two ceramic plates on top and assured they were still weighing the ham down once it was moved to its final location.


5. Allow ham to brine in the refrigerator for 5 days minimum.


The general rule is 1 day per 2 lbs of meat, we opted for 5 days because we did not want to end up with an overly salty ham and are happy we did because it turned out perfect. You can go longer if you want a stronger tasting ham, 7 days is fine but much longer is not advised if you aren't using pink salt in the brine.


Our ham remained in the root cellar for this time since it is the closest area we have that resembles the humidity and temperature of a refrigerator, it sits around 90 plus humidity and 33 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit.


6. Remove ham and rinse with water for approximately 2 minutes, or longer if you prefer a less salty ham. Discard brining liquid.


You have the option to soak your ham in water overnight if you want an even less salty product, if you choose this option return the ham to the refrigerator for that time.


7. Pat ham dry on a clean surface and place on a wire rack over a container to catch liquid, and store in your refrigerator for the ham to receive full air circulation for 24 hours.


This drying period is a crucial step, we wrapped our ham like a present and hung it up in our shelterlogic which gets good air flow and remains relatively cool since it is winter in Alaska. It is normal for the meat to darken and develop a tough skin on the outside during this time.



8. Remove ham from fridge, place in a large cast iron skillet and bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 5 hours or until it has reached an internal temperature of 145 degrees.


Ham can be served immediately.


Enjoy!



We opted to pressure can our leftover ham since it was too large for just the two of us. Leftovers can also be stored in the refrigerator.


Home Cured Holiday Ham Recipe


Ingredients

1 (15 lb) bone in ham

10 quarts water, divided

3 1/2 cups kosher salt

1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar

1/2 tablespoon juniper berries

Instructions

  1. Bring 2 quarts of water in a pot to a simmer, add salt, sugar, and juniper berries then put aside to cool once dissolved.

  2. Score the ham using a sharp knife by slicing the fat along the sides in 1 inch segments, repeat this process going the opposite direction to create little squares or diamond shapes.

  3. Place ham into a food safe container, add cooled liquid with dissolved salt, sugar, and juniper berries.

  4. Add remaining water (8 quarts) to the container, place an item over the ham to ensure it stays submerged.

  5. Allow ham to brine in the refrigerator for 5 days minimum.

  6. Remove ham and rinse with water for approximately 2 minutes, or longer if you prefer less salty ham. Discard brining liquid.

  7. Pat ham dry on a clean surface and place on a wire rack over a container to catch liquid, and store in your refrigerator for the ham to receive full air circulation for 24 hours.

  8. Remove ham from fridge, place in a large cast iron skillet and bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 5 hours or until it has reached an internal temperature of 145 degrees.

  9. Ham can be served immediately, store any leftovers in the refrigerator.


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