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food: ham and other pig products

as part of our pig bounty from the butchery class, we had a ham.
a raw, uncured, cut fresh off the carcass ham.  so… more like a ham-shaped piece of pig than an actual ham.

task #1… figure out how to cure a ham and make it a ham.
we did loads of internet research and the results were… mixed, to say the least.
traditional methods involved using “pink salt” which is what gives commercial hams their pinky-hue.  but it also apparently is a cocktail of chemicals, many of which are NOT good for you at all.  its other function is to kill botulism.
now, this ham came off a fresh pig and straight into our freezer.  i think it was handled appropriately and so scary food borne illness wasn’t something that i was particularly worried about.

so we decided to brine this guy for 3 days without the pink salt.
we created a brine based loosely on this recipe – http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/anne-burrell/brined-fresh-ham-recipe/index.html

ours was more like this:

Brine:

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup fennel seeds
  • 1/4 cup mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 10 bruised garlic cloves
  • 1/2 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 (3-pound) fresh ham

we let it hang out it the fridge – covered, with a dinner plate on top to sink it into the brine – for 3 whole days.

when it was done, it looked like this:

20111112-105910.jpg

sadly, that’s the only picture i took.  no finished results – food blogger fail.

so after brining, we rinsed it off, patted it dry and roasted it in the oven at 325 for about 2 hours.
i made a “glaze” of sorts with cola, maple syrup and some mustard, but the ham gave off so much liquid that it didn’t really glaze as i had pictured.

at the end of it all, we had a damn fine meal.  it was kind of weird because it tasted like ham & had the right consistency, but it looked like a pork roast.  it’s funny how we’re so conditioned into seeing that bright pink ham colour.
anyways, it was great and i definitely recommend trying this yourself.  in fact, just taking the time to brine any meat makes a huge difference.

also on the pork note, we had a bunch of bones left over from our class as well that we’d been meaning to make stock from… and we finally got to it yesterday.  we just did a basic stock, bones, water, an onion, some celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, salt & thyme.  let it boil for a couple hours, then strain it and skim the fat off. cheesecloth was definitely necessary for this task… there was a decent amount of “scum” on the liquid.

when we had achieved beautiful tasty clear-ish stock, we cooked some dried white beans in it and added this ham hock that we smoked ourselves (also from the butchery class)

here’s a picture of it from the summer when we smoked it…

anyways, so into the stock went the hock, dried beans and leeks that had been sauteed in butter.  we added a few things… spices and whatnot… and after an hour or two we shredded the meat off the hock and had a ridiculously rich and delicious ham soup.  which i also do not have a picture of, lol.

the husband and i were pretty proud of our work… a complete meal, farm to table, as it were.  the only things in the meal that i couldn’t place would be the dried beans… no idea where they came from.  but the ham we knew and the leeks were from a local farm up the road.
the mileage that we’ve gotten out of our butchery class is impressive… but we’re down to the last bits.  we have our 16lb bone in pork shoulder, which one day will make fabulous pulled pork… and a few odds & ends like jowl meat and pork belly.  the fatty bits that i’m not super keen on.  but the end is definitely near… might be time to start thinking about getting access to another pig soon.  man, i need a deep freeze.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

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