Originally Posted by Pumbaa
anyone try it? I know the process of curing then smoking but havent given it a go myself yet and was wondering if anyone here has . . . may start one this week but kinda 2nd guessing potentially wasting a whole green ham for an experiment.
I've been following your project and progress with interest. Originally, I was raised in Kentucky (not too far from Broadbent's Hams in Kuttawa, KY). I was raised on Country Ham. Stated differently, ham was a "meat-staple" for our family to include slab bacon (smoked hog jowl) and salted fat-back. We cured and smoked our own. On rare occasions we would purchase hams from a neighboring farm.
Being a kid at the time (I am now 66+ years), and like most farm kids i.e. not wanting to be troubled with time consuming farm chores, I was robotic; I performed tasks as "second nature" all the while failing to pay attention or ask pertinent questions of my elders. Naturally, today I fully realize the folly of my ways.
In 2000 I reached deeply into the recesses of time past and pieced together childhood memories of my helping grandpa salt and smoke hams. It was 2000 when I successfully smoked two hams from the Sitka Black-tail deer. I am now embarking on curing and smoking several fresh pork hams.
Reading all posts following your original, I thought I might be able to shed light on at least one matter, that being, whether or not a country ham was smoked. Country Ham is a southern "thing". With few exceptions, a true Country Ham is dry-salt-cured and when cured it is then smoked.
Ordinarily, we would salt our ham for approximately one week, remove it from the salt box, clean with water, pat dry with cloth, and re-salt the ham. The problem is, I don't know what kind of salt was used. Even back then there were many different available salts.
During the first week, water would literally drain onto the floor from the meat. Nearly every other day we would make a trip to the smoke house and inspect the ham. If patches of "rub" had fallen off the ham, we would sprinkle a small amount of water on that area and re-apply a thick application of rub. During the first cycle we would make absolutely certain that salt was packed deeply, all around and next to the bone from both ends. This was very important because if ham spoils, it will commence around bone for lack of adequate preservative material.
At the beginning of the second week, just prior to applying the second coat of rub, we would inject salt water deep into the meat being juxtapose to the bone with the specific intent of assuring meat preservation adjacent to the bone. Again, I don't know what kind of salt was used nor concentration of the injected salt water. When the rub was applied, the ham was carefully wrapped in paper so as to hold the rub against the surface of the ham and the ham was allowed to cure for 30 to 40 days depending on whether or not the meat had frozen during the cure. Over that period of time, a good deal of water drained from the ham. Later I learned why loss of water was so necessary to preservation.
After the ham had been cured, it was thoroughly brushed with a stiff brush, carefully washed with water and a little vinegar to remove the green mold then hung to be smoked. To the best of my memory, we would smoke our hams for about one week using Hickory. I know that others would often smoke for two weeks and sometimes longer but I don't believe that we smoked much longer than one week. Perhaps it was personal preference.
After smoking, we placed the ham in a brown paper grocery sack and tightly close the mouth of the sack with string. The sack allowed for ventilation but prevented bugs from invading and ruining the meat. From that point we allowed our hams to hang for as much as five to six months before eating. When fully cured, the hams would remain in the smoke house, year around, without spoilage.
So, a few questions for you but first a statement. I loathe sugar cured hams because they are not the salty Country Ham I grew up eating. Aside from that, sugar cured hams don't make good Red-eyed gravy and sugar cured ham doesn't taste good with home-made biscuits. With that having been said, and remembering that you specifically stated that you desired to make a *Country Ham*, what kind of salt are you using? In the past I mainly used Canning Salt during the first cycle. Canning salt has no iodine nor other preservatives. During the second phase I used Tender Quick and especially in deep areas next to the bone. I have been reluctant to use Morton's Sugar Cure simply because of what the name implies. I am so afraid it will end up as a "Sugar Cured Ham". Still, unlike Canning Salt which contains nothing, both Sugar Cure and Tender Quick contain, among other ingredients, NaNO3 and NaNO2 both being important to preservation as well as meat presentation. So what salt are you using and how do you tend your cycles?
Are you planning to smoke and if so for how long using what wood?
KGB in Alaska