You knew you could cure your own bacon, but did you know you can make your own ham as well? It’s actually very easy: all you need is a fresh pork leg, some curing salt, honey, and pickling spice. It’s the perfect solution if you love ham but can’t find a brand at the grocery store that isn’t full of junk. Give it a few days in the fridge to brine, and soon you’ll be carving slices off your very own home-cured ham.
The ingredients might be simple, but at least one of them is very important, and that’s the curing salt (also known as Prague Powder #1). This is not the same as kosher salt, table salt (iodized or not), sea salt, or anything else! You can buy it online or in specialty stores; it’s usually dyed pink to make sure it’s not confused with regular salt. As the ham slowly brines in the fridge, the nitrite in the curing salt prevents the growth of the botulinum toxin in the meat. Botulinum toxin is one of the deadliest poisons in the world, so this is not something you want to mess around with.
If you’re worried about the potential link between nitrites and cancer, take a look here: there’s actually no real evidence that nitrites are dangerous. For one thing, you make more of them in your own saliva than you’d get from eating cured meat every day. If you still don’t want to use nitrites to cure meat, that’s fine – just pick another cooking project to do at home and get your ham at the store.
With the doom and gloom out of the way, it’s time to get into the fun part: ham-making. This is a recipe for a fairly small ham. If you want to modify it for an entire pork leg, that’s fine; just make sure you have the space and equipment to handle it. You’ll just need to adjust the amounts of other ingredients accordingly, and increase the brining time (a typical target is 1 day per pound of meat).
Once your ham is done, scarf it down straight off the bone, chop it up into frittatas, or carve it into slices to make breakfast burritos. Or try your hand at some recipe development of your own: after a taste of home-cured ham tailored exactly to your taste, you’re sure to come up with some creative uses for it.
Homemade Ham Recipe
SERVES: 4 PREP: 10min+1week COOK: 25min/lb.
- 4-5 lbs. pork leg;
- ½ cup sea salt;
- ¼ cup honey;
- 4 tbsp. curing salt (Prague Powder #1);
- 1 tbsp. pickling spice;
- Place the pork in a bowl large enough to fit the ham and fill it with water.
- Add the salt, curing salt, honey, and pickling spice. Give everything a good stir, cover, and place in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days (1 day per pound of ham) to brine.
- When the ham is done brining, remove from the bowl and rinse off.
- Place the pork in a big saucepan filled with water and bring to a boil over a medium heat. Let simmer for about 25 minutes per pound or until the interior reaches 155 F.
- Let everything cool down for 30 minutes after cooking.
- Refrigerate or serve right away.