Home-curing meat is a long but satisfying process for the adventurous cook. There are two ways to cure these meats. Wet curing puts ham and bacon in a brine mixture similar to pickling, but will not keep your meat for long. Dry curing puts the meat in a salt mixture and keeps your meat much longer. Ham and bacon are ideal for home curing, but may take a month or longer to complete. After curing, many chefs smoke the ham in a home smoker for maximum flavour.
Mix the salt and saltpetre thoroughly in a large tub. Mix in the rest of the spices and crush the spices into the salt.
Wash and dry the hams. Lay a bed of the salt mixture in the bottom of the tub and place the hams on top, leaving room between each ham. Pack the rest of the salt around the hams. Leave a hole at the bottom of the container for juices to drain. Cover and let sit for a week.
Unpack the meat after a week. Turn the hams over and repack the salt. Clog the hole in the tub with excess fat from the hams. Make sure to check for scum. If there is any scum, the curing did not work properly and your meat is starting to spoil. Start the process over with fresh hams.
Remove the meat from the mixture after a month or so, depending on the weight and size of the ham. Allow seven days per inch of thickness of ham from the skin to the middle.
Insert a long needle into the centre of each ham and smell to check for freshness. If the hams smell good, take them out of the mixture and wash off the excess salt. Pat dry and hang on a rope line to keep.
- There are a myriad of diseases and bacteria that effect spoiled meat. Do not consume spoiled meat products.
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