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Yesterday (mid February) was elevation day for our cured ham. As mentioned the pig leg had been curing in the fridge for 16 days and so it was time to prep it for hanging. The curing process allowed the skin to take on a darker, richer hew. As the pics below show, after rinsing the salt cure off, the next step is to cover any of the exposed flesh with lard (an oddly pleasurable job…). This step adds a protective layer like the skin, and also ensures that the drying process happens at a similar rate for the whole ham. Then it’s time to add a layer of crushed black pepper to discourage beasties. Another protective measure is to wrap the ham in four layers of muslin: the leg’s now ready to be hung.


Time for elevation! My brother has a beautiful garden housing some fabulous mature trees: a perfect spot for Swine Haus. Although an even more fitting reason to have the ham dry there is that it’s being prepared for his forthcoming nuptials in June.

Swine Haus was constructed using flotsam and jetsam I had lying around: some wooden batons, tongue and groove, plastic corrugated sheet and some chicken wire. The principal was to create a sheltered section above the ham in order to keep rain off – but to incorporate open spaces to the side and below the structure to maximise air flow to the ham to encourage the drying process – we’ll see how that’s worked in a few months time. We used some carabiners we had lying around to balance the Haus and to fabricate a makeshift pulley – the Haus is easy to allow down for inspection.


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Swine Haus!


Today was spent making a little house for the pig leg which has nearly finished its stint in the fridge – we’ll hang it in its little house from a tree for the drying to take place. Still have to pop the chicken wire on to protect the ham – but I think he’ll be nice and cosy in his wee haus.

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Piggy Wiggy Woo – First Blood

Here’s the amount of liquid that has come out of piggy in just 24 hours! 407 grams.

Update: 27 Jan, after another 4 days there’s further 597 grams!

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Piggy Wiggy Woo

So today was day one of the first Scrumulous attempt to dry cure a ham. The idea is to have some cured meats ready for June, the shortest time that one can successfully complete the process is 4-5 months so we’re cutting it a bit fine. Having scoured the web and the various books I have which give recipes for parma type ham I settled on the really quite simple recipe from Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s now classic book Charcuterie, with some adaptions.

Their recipe uses solely cooking salt to cure the meat – I added some nitrite/nitrate curing salt and some phosphates. The curing salts preserve colour and flavour and helps combat the likelihood of baddies making their home in the meat. The phosphates promote the activity of the salt and encourage the development of the cured texture. I used the suggested scaling from Modernist Cuisine to guide the amount of phosphate (0.2% of the weight of the meat). For the amount of Cure number 2 (the nitrite salt I used) I use the scaling from the Ruhlman recipe for Blackstrap Molasses Country Ham. So that meant I rubbed the (boned out) leg with a mature containing: 1.6 Kg salt, 350g Cure 2 and 17 grams of the polyphosphate mixture I have.

pig leg unadorned

All very exciting, the process of rubbing the leg with the mixture being oddly pleasurable. I’ve popped it in a plastic container and placed some weights atop. Over the next 16 days (one day for each 500g of piggy leg) it will live in the fridge and I’ll be regularly draining it of all the liquid that gathers and keeping an eye to ensure all of the meat remains covered with a layer of salt. I’ll probably replace the cure mix once half way through too.

pig leg in his box

People take years to perfect this kind of process so, being uncharted territory as it is, we can but wait and see how it all goes…

Curing salts can be ordered from DesignaSausage and Sausagemaking.org (who also supply the phosphates)

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