Need Help With Hams

Discussion in 'Meat Selection and Processing' started by fiere, Dec 10, 2015.

  1. First time making ham, tfouns this site looking for smoking tips and the more I read the more I'm hoping I'm not ruining my ham.

    I followed more of an "old school" method and didn't use any curing salt (as that's how I've always brined things - famous last words I suppose) and now I'm wondering if I really should. Of course I can't seem to find a local supplier for the curing salt and I'm thinking time is of the essence here.

    I have three well-injected hams that have been sitting in a heavy salt brine since Monday afternoon. They are fresh, skinless, bone in hams of various cuts, 8-10lbs each. They are absolutely falling apart at the seams which I am not sure is supposed to happen or not. It makes sense that it would but obviously this lends to an impossible smoke. I've no sweet clue where to get netting to stop this and I've never seen a cured ham do that.

    I do not want to have to throw out nearly 30lbs of meat from the only pig I raised this year. At his point the hams are still good and can be whipped out of the brine and frozen to salvage them if need be, or advice on how to keep forging ahead with this endeavour. It'd be much appreciated, I want hams I can smoke and I wouldn't mind the smallest one for Christmas dinner.

    My questions are, do they have to be cured to be smoked or can I continue with the salt brine?
    How do I counteract the darn things from falling apart?
    Should I take my well watered and well salted hams out and freeze them until I can get curing salt and just start fresh in a couple weeks?
  2. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    How long have you been brining the hams for?

    One problem I see is you would need to inject the hams especially around the bones with the cure brine. You may not be able to accomplish this since you already injected the meat.

    If you've only been brining for a few days it would be best to freeze the meat and then hot smoke the hams when you are ready to eat them. Since cure wasn't used they probably won't have the hammy taste. You will want to smoke at a temp that will get you from 40-140 internal meat temp in 4 or less hours.

    If you've been brining for a week or more and the hams are falling apart I'd say pitch them. Loosing 30# of meat is cheaper than Life flight and hospital bills.

    Here's some reading on cures:

    And a good curing brine for your next try:
  3. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    You didn't say if they are refrigerated at 38 deg. F.... how much salt (weight) per gallon... What you injected and how much (% of weight of the ham)..

    Did you inject along the bones and joints....

    .. ..

    Below is a method I developed for hams... If you have ANY questions... please ask.... Dave
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2015
  4. Thanks for the reply.
    As stated the hams have been in the brine for 3 days. When i say they are falling apart i mean all along the fat lines where that connective tissue holds the muscle together - its seperating. If i were to hook into the meat to hang in the smoker the weight of the ham would pull itself apart. The meat is still good.
    Basically what i have now is brined meat.

    If i were to pull them and freeze until i was able to get curing salt, could i still cure them?
  5. Sorry - yes the hams are in the fridge and kept cold. They were injected with the brine all along the bones and into the thickest parts of the meat. The brine is salted at roughly 3 cups of salt, 1 cup sugar, for 1 gallons I suppose... I go by taste for my brines. I injected the hams with the brine until I was very satisfied enough brine had been delivered to fully encompass the bones. No idea the percentages - this was no scientific method, it was the basics I've used to brine meat in the past. i do a lot of poultry like this. It's not curing, obviously.

    Here are some pictures to demonstrate what I mean by "falling apart". You can see the connective tissue letting go, this obviously will happen as meat ages (especially in water) but like I said, at this extent if it gets any worse I can't hang these in a smoker.

    Last edited: Dec 10, 2015
  6. crankybuzzard

    crankybuzzard Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

  7. crankybuzzard

    crankybuzzard Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Ham bags, or stockingettes will help with that.  Even a tight wrap with cheese cloth and some butchers twine will allow you to hang to smoke.  Just make sure to bind tight if using the cheese cloth and twine method.

    Butcher-Packer has cotton bags, and I'm sure you could get some before Christmas if you order ASAP.
  8. I would remove from the brine and freeze as you mentioned... I'll add that freezing pork for two weeks is actually a good thing to prevent trichinosis. Buy a #1 cure whether it be Prague powder, dq, or any other "pink curing" salts. Containing salt and 6.25% SODIUM NITRITE. Also get yourself some butchers twine and check out trussing videos on it's easier than most people think.
    **Just be certain there is no sodium NITRATE in the cure (that's a #2 curing salt). #2 is for a much longer process of curing and DRYING large cuts and sausages.

    And YES you need it! Without curing salts you cannot achieve that beautiful pink/rosy color and bacon flavor you expect in a "ham". Without it you will merely have smoked pork... Like true bbq. And without it... Exposing the meat to conditions of smoking runs a risk of potentially deadly botulism.
    Bless your heart that you even raised the hog yourself! I too would exhaust all efforts to save it for certain. Maybe just thaw the piece you want for Christmas and try your brine again with your curing salts. I think it will be fine after doing this.
  9. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I have used this netting... works well....

    The front shoulder picnics were about 10 #s....

  10. Here is a recipe to try... Sorry I didn't post it with the last comment.

    Holiday Ham

    12-15 pound "green" or fresh ham
    1 gallon water
    1 1/2 cups kosher salt
    2 packed cups dark brown sugar
    6 teaspoons #1 pink curing salt

    If this isn't enough to cover the ham with at least 2 in. of brining liquid then mix up another half recipe and add it. Weight it down with a heavy plate or bowl to make sure he doesn't float to the top. Must be completely submerged.
    Allow to brine under refrigeration for 8-10 days. Remove rinse under cold water and pat dry. Allow to sit uncovered in fridge for 12-24 hours to form a pelicle. Hot smoke at 200°F for 2-3 hours or until internal temperature reaches 155°F.

    You can add a glaze on Christmas morning and bake it any 275° oven until it's warm internally.
  11. crankybuzzard

    crankybuzzard Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    YEP!  Same type I use.  They work great for hams AND for turkeys and chickens.  

    Since I started using these, I will probably not go back to trussing and such.

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