My next stupid pet trick is going to be an attempt at making country hams. I have been studying but have yet to see if it is possible to use the procedure successfully on pork shoulders which I can get for ninety cents a pound. It looks like if I start them now, I will have cure time before it gets too warm. My unheated walkout basement is currently in the mid forties and looking at the forecast will stay that way til April Any thoughts from experienced folk deeply appreciated. Out buildings are not an option. it is going to be -15 tomorrow night.
My son has been using this as reference. I really like his bacon but says that he has not got the hams down pat yet. Some good, some not so good. Lots of variables, probably similar to brewing. Depending on the natural bacteria present is a bit of a crap shoot. He found the same with his cheese making; edible all, but not all memorable for the same reason!:rolleyes:
03-01-2019, 07:48 AM
Re: Country hams
Thank You sir. I have finally had it sink in that the southern methodology relying on temperatures swinging back and forth around freezing just does not apply to my climate. The time between warm weather and freezing day and night are just not long enough without some climate control. If I managed to kill a hog on the right day when daytime highs and lows were in the ham goldilocks zone, it just wouldn't be long enough before the meat was frozen hard as a brick until March. I wonder how much curing goes on in that suspended animation.
I will study the material you provided for the answer. The answer might possibly be in a nursing home but most of the folks with this skill set for my area have probably gone to their reward where the hanging meat does not go 'rank'. Having eaten some of that as a child, I know that is of value. I know that an awful lot of meat was canned. That may be the answer to my question and why it wasn't done here. Any methods too modern chemically I am not much interested as I am just going to end up with a product that tastes like it comes from the store and I have had lots of store bought hams.
The best hams I ever ate were venison hams my father used to inject and smoke and I never learned his process. Trouble with them is they were meant to be eaten with several weeks or the fantastic taste would deteriorate. Just a way to pass the time this early March with the lows mid teens F below zero.
03-01-2019, 08:48 AM
Re: Country hams
There is more concern today about excess levels of nitrates, nitrites and salt than there used to be. Puts you a little closer to having some nasty microbes take over the process.
Listeria is a nasty as it actually likes the lower temperatures so I think you are right to be concerned about consistent temperature.
I used to make youghurt regularly and learned that different incubation temperatures favored different bacteria and changed the taste. I found it more predictable to pasteurize my milk and then innocculate with a known blend starter.
I have had fun playing with some of the almost lost arts. Used to like reading the Foxfire series of books. They might be a good source of info for you. Certainly down home and original ways of doing many things.
03-01-2019, 11:30 AM
Re: Country hams
I have cured hams in the winter in VA during some fluctuations in temp but not quite the -15 you are experiencing. Using my grandfather's recipe which started "for 1000 pounds of meat". Neighbors brought their hogs to the farm to help with the slaughter and my grandfather did the curing and smoking. Rule of thumb was hams stayed in cure for a week per inch of thickness (dry cure, not brine) packing cure under the skin of the hock and the butt end after removing the "aiche bone" - the pelvic part of the hip socket as well as keeping a good coating of salt on all surfaces during the cure time. Getting the meat around the bones salted so it doesn't spoil and attract "skippers" - a small fly, is the important goal. Cold slows the salt penetration but is not as bad as high temps before cure is complete. After curing hang and let dry for a week or so before starting to cold smoke.
Saltpeter in the cure keeps the meat color pink instead of grey as well as it's role as a preservative.