Yes indeedy, we ate home-grown, home-butchered, home-cured ham for Easter dinner! And the results?
It was good.
There is room for improvement, as we cure the three other hams-to-be in the freezer, but we definitely enjoyed the ham we created this time!
Now, here's how we did it:
I pulled the cut of meat (from the rump of the pig) out of the freezer on Monday morning, to start the thawing process. We weighed the meat, using our not-so-very-accurate bathroom scale, and came up with about 9 - 10 pounds (including the bone).
I used the recipe on this site for our home cure. The pink salt (instacure #1) was the only ingredient I didn't have in the house. I was able to order a package of this salt on Amazon, and Josiah brought it to us in his suitcase last Sunday.
On Monday afternoon I mixed up a double batch of the water, brown sugar, kosher salt, and instacure. Allen found a perfectly sized tupperware amongst our plastics, and this container held the meat and the liquid with no room to spare - so that the meat was completely submerged. We put this into a cooler, and added several 3-liter bottles of ice, to keep it cold. You can, of course, just put the meat in the fridge, but since we had just had a trip to San Pedro Sula (where we stocked up on some special grocery items) and had also received some edible goodies from Josiah's mom (thanks Johanna!), our fridge was pretty full. The cooler with ice bottles - changed for fresh ice every day - worked just fine.
Late Sunday morning we removed the meat from the cooler and from the liquid cure, washed it, plopped it into a baking pan, and started baking our ham in the oven at 350 degrees. Oh, I also took a couple of strips of pig skin with attached fat (which have been in the freezer since the butchering) and draped those over the top of the ham. I did this because a store-bought ham normally has the skin (and the fat under the skin) left on one side, and ham cooking directions generally say to cook the ham "skin side up." Our ham was completely skinned, so I hoped this would help keep the meat moist during the long baking process.
There are some things I'll do differently next time:
Although I followed the directions which said to cure the meat one day for each two pounds of meat, our meat wasn't quite cured all the way through. A few spots deep inside the meat, while perfectly edible good pork, weren't ham. The fact that I started off with a frozen ham might be a factor. Next time, I'll thaw the meat for at least a day before starting the cure, and I'll give the curing process a couple more days.At any rate, we've definitely achieved ham! I'm happy, and with three more hogs in the pigpen (one of those belongs to Russell), I'm thinking we'll have a lot more ham dinners in our future!
We'd have liked the ham a bit saltier. I might add more salt to my next brine, or I might just see if the additional curing time adds to the saltiness of the end product.
A small amount of the meat had a bit of a chalky texture. I'm not sure why this was - and as we were eating the ham at a family holiday dinner, I didn't take the time to examine if this was meat from any particular area of the ham. I suppose this could have been caused by the cure, or the baking process, or even the diet of the pigs - I just don't know. I'll need to do some research about this, and see if I can improve the texture for next time.