Dry-cured ham is a delicacy but often expensive to buy. It is, however, a simple procedure to dry cure ham yourself. Dry curing draws water out of the meat and adds salt to help the preservation process. Ordinary salt will turn the ham grey; therefore, special butcher's curing salt is recommended so the ham stays pink. Preparation is the key to a successful dry cure, so be certain you have everything ready before buying the leg of pork to turn into ham.
Assemble the curing ingredients, the box, a piece of wood or plastic, stone weight, butcher's string and muslin cloths. If using a plastic rather than a wooden box, drill small holes to allow moisture (but not salt) to escape.
Buy a hind leg of pork. Explain to the butcher what you want it for. Ask him to cut the leg as "long" as possible and to "tunnel-bone" (remove the bone without cutting into the meat) it out for you.
Rub a handful of salt into the cavity left by the bone. Weigh the leg.
Pour roughly an inch of salt on the bottom of the box. Sprinkle cracked peppercorns on top of the salt.
Place the leg in the box with the broad, meaty part down and the skinnier side facing upwards. Cover every part of the leg with at least an inch of salt.
Cover the leg with a piece of wood or plastic that just fits inside the box. Place the stone or concrete block on top. The stone should be up to twice the weight of the leg.
Store the box in a cool, dry place at a temperature of 1.67 to 4.44 degrees Celsius. A refrigerator may be suitable. Ensure 3 to 4 days' storage for each 0.907kg. of meat.
Remove the ham and rinse with cold water to remove the salt. Rub the surface with white wine vinegar.
Wrap the ham in muslin and tie with butcher's string. Hang the ham somewhere that is cool and well-ventilated, such as a garage.
Check the ham after 4 months, but it may take as many as 6 months to be ready. It will be firm, but not solid to the touch.
When unwrapping the ham the surface may have mould, but this does not mean it has gone bad. Simply remove the mould with a nailbrush dipped in vinegar.
Tips and warnings
- When unwrapping the ham the surface may have mould, but this does not mean it has gone bad. Simply remove the mould with a nailbrush dipped in vinegar.