Pig-a-poolooza 2012 started a month ago when we took possession of half a farm-raised pig from Betsy and Peter. Determined to try to do everything possible ourselves, we took charge of the majority of the porker in a freshly butchered state. I had really wanted to try making our own ham, after the success we had with bacon. On doing some research, we determined that we weren't sure if we had the right conditions to do a dry cure (although Gerry has since bought a temperature and humidity probe and is now charting our cellar conditions) and opted instead for a wet cure.
Now a leg of pork is a fairly hefty item to immerse in brine.....so we improvised and sacrificed our wine fermenting bucket to the cause. Creating enough brine of salt, pink salt, and water we weighted down the leg of pork, along with a hock and part of a loin, with the lid of one of my pickling crocks then stowed the entire porky-soup out in the garage (sometimes it is good to live in a cold winter climate....as this would NOT have fit in the fridge). Three weeks in, we retrieved the hock and the loin and smoked it with the pork belly that had been curing in the downstairs fridge. Bacon heaven!
Yesterday, we retrieved the leg, hoping that the huge joint of meat would fit into our Big Chief Smoker. Miracle of miracles, it fit perfectly.
Now, never having attempted smoking something so dense, we started up the smoker at 1pm in the afternoon with chips that had soaked overnight in water. We filled once during the day and then again before we went to bed, hopeful that the aroma of smoking meat would entice any neighbourhood borrowers. In the morning we refilled the chips and went about our day. Two more fillings and by 7 pm the ham seemed done enough.
It now sits, resting comfortably on the counter while we talk about the size of dinner party we are going to have to really show the appreciation necessary to the fantastic cut of meat. I am thinking of taking it back to the butcher who did the pig for us and having him shrink wrap the entire joint so that it doesn't lose any of its presentation splendour. That way we can freeze it to last longer. Before that, however, we are going to research dry storage to see if we can avoid freezing and how long the leg may last.
With the delicious smokiness of this ham, I think a strong glaze of shallots, homemade apricot jam, garlic, and honey should just send it out of this world...hmmmm maybe the annual beekeepers picnic would be the just the place to highlight this gorgeous porker!
Next stop, sausages.