Today was the day to take down my salt cured ham. There’s nothing magical about August 9th as the day the ham would be ready, I just had time to do it today.
I cut it down and brought it into the house to work on. Everything looked, felt, and smelled good. The sack was dry and almost crunchy from all the salt permeating it. It was firm and unyielding to the touch. It smelled wonderful, like ,…well…, like salt-cured meat. A rich salty, brown sugar aroma, almost a smoky scent, even though it wasn’t smoked.
Here it is, still in the sack ready to be opened:
And here it is unwrapped:
Now it’s ready to clean. I just put it in the sink and rinse and scrub all the salt and spices off. There was very little mold, often these will be pretty nasty looking before cleaning. As you can see in the first picture above the skin on the shank has dried hard, almost like those rawhide chew toys you can buy for your dog.
Once it’s clean, it’s time to slice it. I stand it shank up like this:
And start slicing vertically from the right, cutting the slices away from the bone horizontally as I go.
Look at the rich dark red color of the meat! It looks like this was a successful curing.
I work my way over taking vertical slices until I reach the shank bone that is going up and down, and then cut away all the odd shapes bits that I can from the bone. I also sliced a bunch of paper thin vertical slices to use like proscuitto that you’d get from your deli. Sliced thin like that the taste is indistinguishable from a fine proscuitto. You can sample as you slice, it’s fully cured and ready to eat.
After I got done cutting, this is what I had:
On the right a stock pot with the bone and any scraps, ready to be made into stock. Next to that the big slices for use as ham steaks. Then the odd shaped bits for use in soup or stew. Finally paper thin slices laid between wax paper for using like prosciutto. Altogether I ended up with 6 quarts of meaty stock, about 2 1/2 pounds of ham steaks, about a pound of ham chunks, and about 3/4’s of a pound of thin slices. About 4 1/2 pounds of meat altogether from the 17 pound ham I started with. You lose almost all the water in the meat from curing it, and the bone is heavy too.
The meat you have left is intensely flavored though. You won’t sit down and eat a couple slices of it like you would with a grocery store ham.
We traditionally cook it with hominy like this:
That’s enough ham for 4 people easily, I got carried away and fixed way too much for Debbie and me. The ham flavors the hominy with its rich salty and smoky taste.
Was it good? Oh, yes! The ham journey that started last November has reached a successful conclusion!