Ham it up

We butchered the little pig with the broken leg last week and decided that we were going to attempt to cure our own ham this time. Caleb researched various methods and determined that we would make a Suffolk ham this time around. It is the strangest thing, in a lifetime of living with fridges and freezers, to make a ham the old fashioned way. Somehow it seems like you should not be able to keep meat for so long without it being kept refrigerated. I thought I would share the process with you.

The first step is to rub sea salt crystals into the fresh meat. In our case the meat was really fresh, having been slaughtered the day before.

ham-salting

Then you leave the meat sitting smothered in salt for one week. During this week the salt draws the water out of the meat and salt penetrates into the meat at the same time.  It really worked and after a week the meat was sitting in a pool of salty water. The meat had changed to a more greyish colour. I tentatively sniffed it and it smelt just fine despite sitting at room temperature for a week.

ham-salted

 The ham was then ready for the pickling stage of the Suffolk ham recipe. The pickling ingredients are treacle, brown sugar and stout beer. 

ham-pickle-ingredients

All mixed together in the pot it made a black gooey mess with a lovely frothy yellow head. 🙂 

ham-pickle-stirring

And in goes the ham. The ham gets weighed down so it is covered by the liquid. The recipe suggested using a rock but we used a container filled with rice instead. 

ham-in-pickle-1

Now the ham gets turned over in it’s black potion once a week for 6 weeks. Suffolk ham is said to have a black rind when it is done. I am not surprised! 

ham-in-pickle-2

After pickling for 6 weeks the ham is hung up to dry and then it can be eaten. That will be an experience! I can’t wait to see if it works well and what it smells and tastes like. If I suddenly stop corresponding 6 weeks from now you will know that we have all died from food poisoning and that making your own hams is an idea to be avoided!

This particular type of ham does not need to be smoked. It also does not have saltpetre in the recipe, and since we haven’t located any saltpetre yet that was a good thing. Apparently saltpetre keeps the meat more of a pink colour.

We will let you know how it turns out.

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