This year we celebrated the holidays with a proper holiday ham. The fresh pork leg came from a locally raised, pastured pig and was cured and smoked by yours truly. While there are lots of decent hams on the market, the satisfaction I get from curing my own ham with my own unique flavors makes processing my own pork well worth the effort. For this ham, I blended the flavors of a dry cured blackstrap molasses country ham with a wet brined American-style brown sugar ham. The combination gives the ham depth and pizzaz, without the long curing time of a dry-cured ham. If you want to cure a ham for a special occasion, this is the ham for you.
Curing a ham is much easier than you might imagine. The process takes about a week and each individual step is fairly simple. Basically you brine the ham in a salty sweet liquid in the fridge for a week or so. The ham is then rinsed, dried in the fridge overnight, and hot smoked until fully cooked. Sodium nitrite is the only special ingredient you will need. A local butcher can order you a 12-15 lb fresh pork leg or shoulder (also called a Boston Butt). Try to get farm-raised pork if you can, because the flavor will be much better. My butcher removed the skin and hacked off the ham hocks for me, then I totally deboned it, just to make carving easier. If you don’t have a smoker you can slow cook it on the bbq or even roast it the oven. It won’t be as smoky, but it will still taste great. I cured and smoked this ham last November, then put it in the deep freeze until I was ready to use it for the holidays.