Things You'll Need
Ham or picnic shoulder
Plastic bucket with lid
White or brown sugar
Seasonings to taste
Taking on a cooking project like curing your own meat sounds impressive and DIY-savvy. The best part about following through on curing your own ham is you will find the process no more difficult than roasting a turkey or putting together a decent lasagna. Methods of curing ham fall into two categories--wet curing or dry curing. The latter method requires several months and consistent ambient temperatures for safe curing. Using the wet-curing method allows you to prepare and serve your home-cured ham in a few days.
Purchase a fresh ham from the butcher and get it home as quickly as possible. Do not let the ham get over 40 degrees Fahrenheit or you run the risk of introducing bacteria to the meat.
Place the ham in the bucket you will be using and fill with water until the ham is submerged. Remove the ham and put it back in the refrigerator. Measure the amount of water in the bucket, pour into a stockpot and turn on the heat.
Measure 1/2-cup of kosher salt and 1/4-cup of sugar for each gallon of water. Add one tablespoon of seasonings for each gallon of water and combine with the salt and sugar.
Turn the heat down to a simmer when the water starts to boil and add the salt, sugar and seasonings. Seasonings may include peppercorns, pickling spices and juniper berries. Stir until the salt and sugar have completely dissolved. Allow the water to cool for 20 minutes on the stove top. Put the stockpot in the refrigerator and cool until the water reaches 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a kitchen thermometer for accuracy.
Place the ham in the brining solution and place a heavy plate on top of the meat to keep it from floating to the surface. Make sure the water completely covers the ham. Any part of the ham exposed to the air can spoil, ruining the entire effort. Place a lid on the bucket and put it in the refrigerator.
The amount of time the ham cures depends on the size of the meat. Pork typically takes about eight hours per pound to cure. In that case, a 6-pound ham will cure in about two days.
Remove the ham from the brining solution and rinse thoroughly to remove all surface salt. Discard the brining solution.
Cook the cured ham by baking or boiling it. Some cooks also smoke their cured hams on the barbecue or in a smoker. This final step is necessary to ensure the meat is safe for eating.