Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Going Whole Hog - The 27lb Ham

 Back in early September we had bought 1/8 of a steer. It equaled about 40 lbs of beef. We finally finished it off at the end of February. This time we decided to go a bit bigger but with a meat that we prefer over beef - pig. The bonus of doing pig is that we can also utilize it for Charcutepalooza.

We were originally going to raise our own hogs on someone's rural property but when that didn't seem to pan out we decided to just buy a live hog from someone that had already raised it to market weight. We were lucky to find an organic dairy farmer that just so happened to raise 4 hogs as a side project. The hogs were fed all organic feed. The hogs were large, but we weren't prepared for the actual weight. We were thinking the one we picked was maybe 250lbs live weight. Turns out it was closer to 450lbs. Yeah, we were just a bit off. The hanging weight on the hog was 287lbs.

I was definitely looking forward to curing the 25lbs of pork belly into bacon and pancetta. We have the head so I can make giancale or even head cheese. The butcher left us the shoulders whole so we can make sausage.

But this month's challenge for Charcutepalooza was a hot smoke. The example used for hot smoking was Canadian bacon. Our butcher, unfortunately cut the tenderloins into chops so we couldn't make Canadian bacon. So we decided to go with a whole ham. The hams weighed 27lbs. Go big or go home right?

Removing the aitch bone

We cut the hock off of the ham, removed the aitch bone and then brined it. After removing the hock and aitch bone we got it down to 25lbs. We brined it for 14 days. The directions said half a day of brining per pound for an American Style Holiday glazed ham. Unfortunately, even with the extra day and half of brining and doubling the brine recipe, when all was said and done, this wasn't long enough. The interior of the ham didn't get cured. Oh well, it's still very tasty.

Cat is eyeing the ham
We have a lot of applewood stacked in our yard from a friend's tree. We decided to use that for the smoking. The ham barely fit in our smoker. After 2 hours I glazed it. To reach the required 155 deg internal temperature it took 13 hours to hot smoke. Poor Tom, after hunting all day on Saturday had to get up at 3am on Sunday to pull it out of the smoker and do the final glaze. But it came out amazing! It's smokey with a subtle salty sweetness. I'd never had real ham - only the highly processed stuff that people serve on the holidays. This is how ham is supposed to taste like.

We did a very simple meal. We fried up some slices and served it up with some fresh fried eggs from our hens for a Sunday morning breakfast. The weather was lovely so we could eat outside. Sometimes the simple meals are the best tasting.


  1. Just reward for hard work.
    Looks good let me know & I'll bring fresh bread.

  2. Oh my! I think the cat had the right idea. I wouldn't have wanted to stray to far from that beauty either.

  3. Oh wow, that looks absolutely delicious. I'm so hungry now!

  4. WOW. What time is dinner? Just kidding. I am eyeing my copy of Charcuterie now, and wondering what the dood should scavenge in order to build a smoker.

    (My cats are poignant spokesmodels for meats, too.)

  5. oh goodness that looks good. my friend julia and i are going to split a hog in the fall and do some meat preservation experiments - proscuitto, salami, and other things piggy and winter curable. sooooo excited. pork is a wonderful meat.

  6. This is the most fascinating post I've read on your blog. What a process! What we grocery store patrons take for granted. Shocking.

  7. Delicious and beautiful!

    I've done bacon a few times, but never tried smoking a hole ham like this. One of the tings I came across when reading about this was that to get the cure to the interior of the ham, especially on a big ham like this, you would inject the brine in along the bone with a special tool.