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2024 Cured Meats Project

At the beginning of February I hung up two pork shoulders on my porch, packed in cure and wrapped in brown paper. My goal was to make country ham, a process described well by the University of Kentucky.

The first step is hanging for about two months in cold weather. 35-40F is what you want. The meat is packed in cure -- basically 4:1 salt and sugar with some Cure #2, a sodium nitrite/sodium nitrate mix designed for a long curing process like this one. The cure penetrates the meat and helps draw moisture out.

Here's one:

In mid-April, it was time to take them down and smoke them. Each one lost 40% of its weight, which is great news.

Here's the stars of the show after being unwrapped. Meet Ham Neely!

And this is Pig Notaro.

I don't have a real smoker, or a Big Green Egg or anything like that, but I've had good results using a big cardboard box. You put a hot plate with a cast iron pan down at the bottom, and add wood chips every hour or so. I like apple wood.

This time I used a "Grand Wardrobe" box from the local UHaul. The box has a nice coathanger support that can hold weight, so I wouldn't have to mess around with making my own. The lady working at UHaul also gave me a few extras, which was nice! She said her brother had just smoked some bacon from a pig he slaughtered himself. I said I hadn't leveled up that far yet.

Here you can see two hams and a temperature sensor. The smoke should stay under 110F for these hams, and that works fine for bacon too.

Aerial view, with some maple bacon getting in on the fun. You can see the pan of wood chips down at the bottom. The box is also propped up on wood shingles so air can come in.

The entire setup from outside:

And after two days in the box (let's say 16 hours), the hams have some more color to say the least. They smell amazing, as do I and everything within fifteen feet of the smoker.

The bacon is trying to look its best in crummy kitchen lighting.

And back to the porch. Ham Neely on the left and Pig Notaro on the right. They'll be hanging up there until well into the summertime. I made two so I could try them at different phases of aging.

Ham Neely glamour shot:

Pig Notaro glossy:

More to come in a few days, namely some kielbasa and summer sausage.