I have a new hobby – making hams.
Meeting other people, sometimes end up with interesting new hobbies. Working with some guys who were all hunters, business travels to Germany and Sweden servicing wind turbines, gave me insight to a completely new world of smoking and curing. Of course these guys all had the right (=expensive) equipment for preparation of meat. However, I got curious and started out with making bacon from recipes I found online.
I used our Weber One Touch 57cm (the must-have wedding gift, when I got married 15 years ago) after curing the meat for one week and smoked it for 4 x 12 hours before drying it for 4 weeks. The bacon was easy to make, but very salty and had a greyish look. However, the kids loved it and they didn´t mind the colour.
Never give up is my motto, so I made some research on the internet and bought a copy of the River Cottage “Curing and Smoking” handbook no. 13, by Steven Lamb. The book is a down to earth, practical guide on dos and don´ts when curing and smoking.
That gave me a taste for making hams myself. Most dried meat we buy, is full of nitrate and nitrite. It makes the meat look deliciously red/pink and helps preserving the meat. Nobody wants rotten or foul smelling meat. But…. both additives are under suspicion of increasing cancer risk and bad health in general. So no additives for me…
By curing meat thoroughly in salt, you extract the fluids, herbs add taste and in the end you just need to dry it hanging for some months until it has lost 30% weight (rule of thumb – you can keep hanging shorter or longer). I keep mine in a musseline bag made from cloth diapers to protect them from dust and later on from flies. They should actually hang from a meat hook, I just haven’t bought any yet.
Try it out yourself, it´s great fun! You can cure all kinds of meat, use almost all cuttings and compose your own recipes with herbs. As long as you check it on a regular basis and throw away meat with black, green or smelling spots.
I keep a chorizo sausage with white mold (penicillum) among the hams. Actually it´s for making salamis and chorizos, where the danger of botulism is much higher, since sausages are mostly made with raw meat and are not smoked. If the mold “contaminates” the ham, it prevents that harmful other molds can grow on it.
Please keep in mind not to dry the meat in a shed where you keep smelling stuff like turpentine, paint, and gasoline. Also keep your work space clean and wash it and yourself after handling raw meat.
I will keep you updated with more photos at a later time.