Smoking a Sugar-Cured Country Ham

Discussion in 'Pork' started by smokingnovice, Dec 22, 2011.

  1. My husband, Ryan, and I are smoking a country ham for Christmas this year. I was on the forum yesterday looking for some help ( We're just starting out on this endeavor, so I'll update this post as we move through the process. Here are the details:

    Tuesday, Dec. 21

    Burgers' Smokehouse Brown Sugar-Cured Country Ham, 18.86 pounds, bought at a local grocery store. Here's the photo I sent to my husband to give him scale against my hand.


    Here's a clearer picture of the package information:


    Wednesday, Dec. 21, 9 p.m.

    I'm really glad I looked at the very detailed and helpful post from Dave (, as it kept me from freaking out when we opened up the paper:


    Yup, it had a good crust of mold on there, and it was ... odorous. We scrubbed it down to get as much crust off as we could, then stuck it in a 5-pound bucket with a lid and put in enough water to cover it. We have a mini fridge outside, so we pulled out the shelves and crisper bin and it fits perfectly (had to move the beers, though, so I guess "perfectly" is relative).

    Thursday, Dec. 22, 9 p.m.

    After 24 hours of soaking, we pulled Hammy (my newly bestowed name) out to refresh his water, and he looked better:



    We also decided to cut off Hammy's hock and pare down some of the crust, just to make sure the water is getting good access to the meat underneath all-a that. Don't worry: hock is saved, in the fridge. I'll have to figure out what to do with it, but my first instinct is to make a vat of beans.

    I'll keep everyone posted as we move along!

    -- Andrea
  2. adiochiro3

    adiochiro3 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

  3. viper1

    viper1 Meat Mopper

    Looks good! Just got mine done a little bit ago.
  4. [​IMG]It's been a good 25+ years since I've had a chunk of good country ham.   They don't look like much when you get them but they are simply marvelous when you eat them.  I'll be watching and[​IMG]drooling over your progress.
  5. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Looking forward to the rest of the Qview!
  6. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

  7. slownlow

    slownlow Smoking Fanatic

    great start. [​IMG]
  8. This sure has got my interest!!! Can't wait for the Q-View to continue...[​IMG]
  9. OK, I've got the end of this smoking story all ready to go. Sorry for the delay; I've been in a ham haze for what seems like days ...

    So, we left off on Thursday night. Friday we let Hammy sit and didn't do much. But then ...

    Saturday, Dec. 24, 8 a.m.

    We changed out Hammy's water again, and were feeling good about his looks.



    I liked seeing his skin pull away from the meat a bit -- that told me that the water was rinsing out more of the salt from his insides. Since we'd bought a brown sugar-cured ham, we were planning a brown sugar glaze. But country hams have a lot of salt in them, so I wanted to make sure he got a good soaking.

    Sunday, Dec. 25, 5:15 a.m.

    A lot of the recipes we read said the hams took 4 to 6 hours to cook, but those were smaller hams (ours, again, was 18.86 lbs.) We figured we'd be safe rather than sorry and make sure he'd be ready for a 6 p.m. dinner time (even if it meant he rested and we reheated later). Here is is getting one last scrubbing:



    Again, the skin pulling away was encouraging (in terms of the soaking). We put him in a roasting pan and added 2 cups of pineapple juice and a cup of water:


    We put him in the smoker at 225 degrees using pecan wood:


    Sunday, Dec. 25, 8 a.m.

    OK, I know you're supposed to leave the lid closed ... but we were leaving the house to visit family for a couple of hours, and we had to take a peek to see how things were moving along (and to make sure there was still some liquid in the roaster). Hammy was clocking in at about 81 degrees at this point:


    Sunday, Dec. 25, 1 p.m.

    We got back home and took a temperature check with the new handy-dandy temperature probe (with the digital reader that magnetizes to the outside) of the smoker. Hammy's temp at this point was 135 degrees.


    This is where things got a little fuzzy. We weren't sure how to proceed. We knew we wanted him to be at about 160 degrees, we weren't sure what to do about his skin ... we were definitely in uncharted territory. We put a foil tent on him and let him rest a bit. We figured, at this point he's good and cooked -- well enough that a "reheating" would take him to our optimal temperature.

    Sunday, Dec. 25, 2 p.m.

    We decided to pull his skin off, then lathered him in some dijon mustard and brown sugar:


    We checked him at about 4 p.m. and spritzed him with more pineapple juice (we'd bought a spray bottle and squirted him with that). He didn't get crispy, but we think it's because of the roasting pan we kept him in. We considered putting him directly on the grill, but didn't want to risk him drying out or getting tough. We opted for a moist-but-not-crispy ham. We pulled him from the smoker at about 5 or 5:15 and tented him to let him rest.

    Sunday, Dec. 25, 6:15 p.m.

    My husband carved up the slices, and here is is with one piece taken (for taste-testing purposes, of course):


    All in all, Hammy's flavor was fabulous. Lots of juice (as you can see), and a low smoky flavor. Everyone at the dinner loved the dinner, and said it was some of the best ham they'd had. For sides, we served a green salad, corn, homemade scalloped potatoes, pineapple chunks and dinner rolls.

    If I had to change anything, I think I would have taken Hammy out of the roaster at some point. Probably when we removed the skin and put the mustard and brown sugar on. A nice crisp would have been good. Regardless, it came out really well, and we felt so victorious in the end! Thanks for everyone's well wishes!

    -- Andrea
  10. shtrdave

    shtrdave Smoking Fanatic

    So what happened, any more pictures and descriptions?
  11. sprky

    sprky Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    what's the outcome?
  12. shtrdave

    shtrdave Smoking Fanatic

    It looks great, you must have been doing the update when I posted before, do you have any shots of the inside of the ham?

    Did it have a salt taste as you were afraid it would?

  13. tom c

    tom c Smoking Fanatic

    Thanks for the great post.

    How salty was hammy after the soaking, my wife hates salt and don't want me to do a ham decause of the salt.
  14. Re: the saltiness, it was normal-to-slightly-saltier than regular ham, but not too bad. I like a little salt on my food, but not too much. We noticed that the ham in the very center (center of the picture of slices above) tasted more true to a ham flavor, while toward the outer edges Hammy got a bit ... gamey. More porkish tasting than ham tasting. That wasn't my favorite part, honestly, because he sort of tasted the same way he smelled ... which was porkish. Yeah, yeah, I know. It's a pork post. It's a ham. It's pork. But that gaminess was definitely there.

    I didn't take any picture of the inside, but it was a deep pink color (note: it was definitely cooked all the way through to 165 degrees or so as a high temp ... no trichinosis at this dinner [​IMG]   ).

    I just ran to the fridge and took a picture of what we have left, and here's the final result (of a well-eaten ham).

    The top (skin side):


    Here's the bottom (moldy side in previous pictures). You can see the smoke ring on the slice that's laying to the right of the cut part:


    Again, the farther you got to the outer edges, the gamier the flavor got. But right in the center, it was tender, pink, juicy. Not fall-apart tender, but definitely tender.

    Hope this helps! I'll keep an eye out for any other questions.

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