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Question on Country Hams

 
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bucket
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Joined: 31 Aug 2006
Posts: 272

PostPosted: Apr 05 2007    Post subject: Question on Country Hams Reply with quote

What is involved with turning a shoulder into a country ham? My Dad insists I learn how to make a country ham. Figured this would be the place to start.
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Hogwild
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Joined: 20 Jul 2005
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Location: Hastings, NE

PostPosted: Apr 05 2007    Post subject: Reply with quote

Home cured hams are the best. We've done them for years...My Grandfather has been putting them up since he was a kid (1930s). A lot of folks used to just rub them with salt (making sure to get all the nooks and crannies) and put them in a saltbox for several months. Now we "sugar" cure them. It's a mixture of salt (what's actually doing the curing), white sugar, brown sugar, and pepper. I'd have to ask my Ma about the recipe. We like to have all the skin left on it....Paw-paw says it helps the curing. Take the mixture and rub the ham all over liberally, again making sure you get all the nooks and crannies. You have to make sure you fill up the hock with your curing mixture. If a ham goes bad, 9 times out of 10, that is where it starts. On a side note, if it didn't cure right, you'll know it the second you cut into it....nasty smell. Wrap them in a cloth (cheese cloth will work), then drop em' in a sack and hang em up somewhere. We use an old "smoke" house. The time of year you put them up is critical. In NC, we used to put them up the week before Christmas, but we've moved it back to the first or second week of January. You want the temp to be below 40-45, but above freezing for 3 or 4 weeks. This gives the cure time to set. If the ham freezes, you're screwed because it can't leak water. I supposed you could do it in a fridge if you could dedicate one for a month or two. After that you can keep it at room temp. We usually cut our first ones in early fall. we have found three year old hams in the back of the smokehouse that have been great. We put up 20 to 40 every year depending on who amongst family and friends want one.

Curing hams is definitely a dying art. I need to figure out the best time and find a good place to hang them here in Nebraska.
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Harry Nutczak
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Joined: 01 Mar 2007
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Location: The Northwoods

PostPosted: Apr 05 2007    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think you might want to try one before you attempt to make one.

try this place in Monteagle TN, owned by Jim Oliver
http://www.thesmokehouse.com/

I used to see country hams hanging at roadside fireworks stands throughout Tennessee, I always wanted to try one, but I was way young and couldn't ever talk my parents into getting one.
Then I saw (and smelled) one up close & personal a month ago at the link I posted.
I actually had second thoughts after being up close & personal to one of these dry-cured country hams.
It might be an "acquired taste" sort of thing. it has a smell similar to prosciutto, (a phrase about "Denmark" comes to mind)

and at the local waffle house they give you a choice of "country ham" , or "City ham" with your breakfast order. and the waitress asked if we have had country ham, when we said "no" she suggested the "city ham"
if that tells you anything.

Ham curing as an art I would love to learn, I still want to try an actual country ham, but not a 5:00 AM being awake for over 24 hours, with a sour stomach already happening from the pecan rolls we shoved in our faces to stay awake for driving just hours earlier.

There are some excellent meat preservation websites on the web, and I bet you could find some excellent resources to learn this dying art of ham curing. if you pull it off, I would be interested in giving it a try myself.
But I think these are done in the southern areas of our country for a reason, we just don't have the weather for it up here,

I will post more links to this dry-cure ham art as a find them, even wet-cured home hams have a difficult success rate unless you are pumping the cure through the arteries, the bone will usually start the spoilage and it goes from there!
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bucket
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Joined: 31 Aug 2006
Posts: 272

PostPosted: Apr 05 2007    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the insite guys. How long are we talking for curing? Just a month?

Hogwild, think you could get me some more specifics on the cure mix and directions? I have a fridge I can keep it in, if all I need to do is coat it and wrap it.
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Hogwild
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Joined: 20 Jul 2005
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Location: Hastings, NE

PostPosted: Apr 06 2007    Post subject: Reply with quote

Harry Nutczak wrote:
.....
I actually had second thoughts after being up close & personal to one of these dry-cured country hams.
It might be an "acquired taste" sort of thing. it has a smell similar to prosciutto, (a phrase about "Denmark" comes to mind)
......


I would argue that it wasn't cured right (or at least how we do it) if it smelled like prosciutto.

I personally don't like a ham cured with only salt. I like to be able to taste the ham when I eat it. The sugar in our cure cuts the saltiness. Don't get me wrong, it's still a little salty...especially the outside bit...but not like a straight salt cured ham.

I agree that the weather in the South is better for it. Cool enough to keep the hams for going bad, but not a huge chance in it freezing. I may just have to try one in the fridge if I can find a small, inexpensive refrigerator.

Bucket,
I'll ask my Mom about the recipe. I can't remember it, but she has it written down. No, it'll take several months to completely cure. It'll be safe to leave at room temp after a month or so, though, depending on the size of the ham.
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Sax
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Joined: 06 Feb 2007
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Location: Spartanburg, SC

PostPosted: Apr 06 2007    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I was growing up country ham was considered a delicacy because of it's cost. They're still not cheap these days.

Nothing like it, though. I love the flavor of a real country ham....smoky, salty...sweet....Yum!! Laughing Laughing Laughing
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