How to Brine & Smoke a Fresh Ham

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The humble ham goes through many processes before being eaten.
The humble ham goes through many processes before being eaten. (Image: ham image by Soja Andrzej from Fotolia.com)

A ham starts as a pork loin. Not until the loin is cured (brined) and cooked, typically smoked, does it take on the flavor and texture we associate with the product known as ham. Making a ham at home requires time and some specialized equipment; however, by overseeing the process yourself you can infuse the meat with the flavors you prefer and ensure you end up with a ham of the highest quality.

Things You'll Need

  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Cure
  • Spices
  • Stock pot
  • Container
  • Bowl
  • Meat thermometer
  • Smoker
  • Wood
  • Pan
  • Liquid

Brining

Mix 1 gallon of brine per every 10 lbs of ham. For 1 gallon of brine, pour 1 gallon of water, 1/4 cup white sugar and 1 cup picking salt in a stock pot and heat until the salt and sugar are dissolved. The addition of a prepackaged cure is recommended for a traditional pink color. Mustard seed, clove and other traditional pickling spices are optional.

Cool the brine to at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the ham in a plastic or glass container with a tight-fitting lid and pour the brine over it. Close the lid.

Refrigerate the ham for 2 to 5 days, according to your taste preferences. The longer the ham remains in the brine, the saltier it will be. Smaller hams will require shorter brining times. Monitor the temperature of the ham while it is brining and keep it between 38 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remove the ham from the brine and rinse it in lukewarm water. Place the ham in a bowl of 170-degree water until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 155 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the ham has warm, it is ready to cook.

Smoking

Start your smoker and heat it to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Use applewood for a traditional flavor.

Place a pan of liquid in the bottom of the smoker. Use plain water or a mixture of water with beer, vinegar, wine or Worcestershire sauce.

Cook at 225 degrees Fahrenheit until the internal temperature of the meat is 160 degrees at the thickest section, approximately 5 to 6 hours for a 10-lb. ham.

Tips & Warnings

  • Most hams that are put in the oven for glazing are precooked. You can do the same with a ham you've prepared at home. Use the traditional combination of pineapple juice and brown sugar to glaze your ham after smoking.
  • Slice your smoked ham across the grain for the most tender eating.
  • Do not add additional salt to your ham after brining or it may become dry and unpalatable.

References

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