Cured meats don't generally last as long in the freezer. My husband works in an old fashioned butcher shop and they don't keep any cured items past 6 months. It's not that they go bad, the cure just sometimes gets a funny taste. The fresh stuff lasts longer.
Also I am the county wide 4H country cured ham leader. I could write out our recipe and instructions for curing your own old fashioned salt cured ham if there is interest. It might be a few days before I get it done but can do that.
I just seen the post above with the link to the virginia extension directions. We do it basically the same way. With a few exceptions.
First you will need a cotton bed sheet about 3 foot by 3 foot. Then a ham sock or a stockingnette. I'm not sure where other people would get these, but we get them from the butcher shop that my husband works at and helps with the ham project. It is just a plastic mesh bag like onions come in. But bigger and stretchy.
This is the recipe we use. Not many people will be doing 100 pounds of ham so I have a recipe to do a 25 to 30 pound ham.
2.25 cups of salt (we use non iodized salt)
1 cup brown sugar
4 tbsp black pepper
2 tbsp red pepper
3.5 tsp potassium nitrate (salt peter)
We get the salt peter from a pharmacy. Most don't stock it but will order it for you. You will get a bottle that will last you forever. Because you don't use that much.
If you have a ham that is bigger than 30 pounds or way smaller than 25 pounds, we have figured out that you need 1.25 ounces (by weight) of the total cure mixture per pound of ham.
Mix up the cure very well. We use our hands (if you don't have any scratches or cuts, if so, wear gloves) to be sure to get all the salt and sugar mixed up. Take a 3 foot by 3 foot section of a cotton bed sheet and lay it on your work surface like a diamond and lay the ham on it. With the side up that has the skin and meaty part, not just the skin, (if that makes sense), and start rubbing the salt cure all over the ham. Scoop it up with your hand and put it on the ham. Make sure all the flesh part of the ham is covered with cure. Put some on the end of the hock to make sure that the cut end has cure on it. Don't pack it in the hock or it can keep it from draining correctly. Rub cure on the butt end of the ham. Turn the ham over and rub some on the skin and then turn the ham back over. Dump any extra cure that you have back onto the ham. There will be a lot of loose cure around. Take the bottom of the sheet and bring it up around the butt of the ham. (if you are going to show the ham, try to make sure there are very few wrinkles in the sheet, as any wrinkles in the sheet, makes wrinkles in the ham. Take a side of the sheet and wrap it around the ham, tucking the sheet in and making a nice strong tight bundle. Do the other side of the sheet and the top part too. Now, put it in a stockinette or ham sock hock side down. Make sure it is nice and snug in your sock. Tie at the top and hang in a cold place. Like an unheated garage or shed or outbuilding. The freezing and thawing action helps the ham pull in the salt in the cure. Be sure to put it somewhere that it can drip or put something under it. It will lose a lot of moisture.
We do our hams in either December or the beginning of January. We pull them down in about April in the middle of the month to clean them (if you want to, it's not necessary). You can clean them with water and scrub the cure off or you can just use a dry scrub brush and dry brush the cure off. Rewrap in a clean sheet. Put back in the ham sock. Now you want to hang it is a spot that gets as hot as possible. This is the drying part. If you have a building with a metal roof or an attic of a house hang it in there as close to the roof as possible. So it gets as much heat as possible. We then bring them down at the end of July to either clean up and show or clean up and smoke them.
We have eaten hams that were from two to three years prior. You just lose more of it because you cut the hardened skin off to get to the softer part of the ham.
All during the process when the ham is hanging, check on it to look for bug or rodent damage. Something we have done in the past is take a roll of screen and wrap it around the ham very loosely. Just so any mice couldn't come and chew on it. Also to keep bugs off we have used bug spray to spray the rope the ham hangs from but not the ham. Our county used to allow people to use Borax on the outside of the sheet to deter bugs but that is no longer allowed by the FDA and I just wouldn't do it at all. It's really an easy project and if you aren't worried about showing it, it is even easier since you don't have to worry about how nice it looks.
Also when you pull it down to clean it either in April or when you want to smoke it, there will be mold on the outside of it. Just scrub it off. If you hang it for storage, there will be mold on it. I wouldn't hang it for long term storage in the sheet. Just in the mesh bag so it gets more air to it. The mold doesn't hurt anything and washes or cuts off.
I didn't like the flavor of the ham for a long time. My daughter has been doing this project way longer than I have been the leader. It is growing on me. My husband slices it and bakes it in either Dr. Pepper or black cherry cola soda. It really makes a difference in the taste. We don't soak it in water before baking or anything. Just trim off the dried out pieces of the ham. I hope this makes a little sense and helps someone knowing how real people do it. LOL! Or at least some real people. Our group does about 45-65 hams a year depending on how many are in the project.
If you have any other questions, just ask away and I will try to answer them.
A country ham is a cured ham, as Tracy has posted. (Thanks, Tracy)
A city ham is one that is what people outside of the southern states get at their grocery. It has some salt water injected into it and maybe zipped through a smoker, but you can't leave it hanging in your pantry because it will spoil. With a country ham, most of the liquid in the meat has been removed due to the action of the salt and that is what keeps it from spoiling. Some sausages are done in a similiar fashion.
That looks great Tracy, thanks so much for typing all that out! I never thought I'd be "diapering" a ham, but that's kind of what it sounds like, ROFL!
Thanks again Sally, that looks like another great article!
Ohhh, I haven't had a country ham in ages, my mouth is watering! I just wish I'd found this out in time to do one for Christmas, lol. Oh well, there's always next year, but I'll have to do at least one before then to "test" it, you know? Maybe two just for good measure!
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