Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Addictive Brined and Smoked Fresh Ham

I have never been a fan of ham.  Spiral-sliced, country-style, Black Forest,...doesn't much matter.  My take away is almost always <meh>.

Enter Royer Farm Fresh and the fresh hams I have bought from them over the years.  Being the type that always (always) prefers to do it myself, I thought perhaps I could improve my ham experience by brining and smoking a fresh ham to my taste.  I tinkered with my recipe over the last few years, and now I quite literally crave (my) ham.  It's great on a hors d'oeuvre tray, in a cuban, straight out of the refrigerator,...you get the idea.  It's YUM.

Turning a fresh cut of meat into something cured and smoked takes equipment and time.  It's not hard, but it doesn't happen in an hour.

What do you need on hand?  

A large enough pot to hold the brine and ham, with the ham fully submerged.  It's helpful if this is a giant stockpot with a lid, wider than it is tall, but I suppose most anything would work.

A charcoal or gas grill, good lump charcoal (or gas), and hickory wood chunks (not chips).

A large (4-7 lbs) bone in fresh ham.  This is just the ham CUT of pork.  A fresh ham has not been brined, cured, smoked, etc.


Make the Brine

Combine in the large stockpot:

1 1/2 cups each kosher salt and the best sugar you have (I like my organic raw sugar, it's finely ground, but it's not chemically stripped)

8 cups water

1 large orange, sliced into rounds

1 large lemon, sliced into rounds

2 large limes, sliced into rounds

1 whole head of garlic, sliced on the bias

1 large onion, sliced however makes you happy

2 T. fresh oregano

1 tsp. whole black pepper

Bring all this to a boil, cover, remove from the heat, and let cool completely to room temperature.

Brining the Ham

Once the brine is at room temperature, remove the ham from it's wrapper and submerge fully into the brine.  Be sure it stays completely covered by the mixture.  Cover the pan and place into the refrigerator for 3 days.

>>This picture is what the ham looks like upon removal from the brine on day 3.

Smoking the Ham

After 3 days, pour off the brine liquid, remove the ham, and discard the solids.  Bring to room temperature.  Meanwhile, soak 4-5 cups of hickory chunks in water.  Be sure to soak the wood for at least a couple of hours.

Prepare the grill to a high indirect heat (e.g. over to one side), remove the wood chunks from the water, and place them directly on the charcoal (or whatever your gas grill instructions say).  Close the grill lid immediately and let the smoke develop, about 5 minutes, until it's billowing out and smells delicious.

Place the ham as far away from the direct heat source as is possible.  Close the lid and leave it alone for an hour.  Flip the ham over (both right to left and top to bottom) and let smoke another hour.

Remove the ham from the grill and place it into an oven-proof large pot with a lid.

Finishing the Ham

Ham is extremely lean, so after a couple of hours on the smoke, I like to finish it on a very low temperature in the oven.

Bake the covered ham at 200 degrees until it reaches an internal temperature of 155 degrees.  Remove the pot from the oven and remove the lid.  Allow ham to rest at least 30 minutes (or longer) and slice.

Now, try not to eat it all while standing over the cutting board.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Chipotle-Cherry Barbeque Sauce

I have a love-hate relationship with BBQ.  I know, it's un-American, but that's how it is.  While I love to smoke fresh and/or brined meat at home, I often find the combination of heavy smoke and sticky-sweet sauce unpalatable (for me).  Then, earlier this year, I was making shrubs (drinking vinegars).  As I struggle to ever throw anything out, and am always trying to repurpose, reuse, use up everything I have, I needed to do something with all the pickled cherries I had on hand.

Feeling creative one Sunday, I started concocting...and it was a hit.  I love it, my 2 and 4 year old love it, my parents love it, etc. etc. 

I used this on mesquite-smoked baby back ribs, but I think it would go great on any BBQ.

1 c. black cherries soaked in simple syrup or leftover from making a cherry shrub (guess which ...
one I used)
1 c. ketchup
1/2 c. cold brew coffee
1/3 c. unfiltered apple cider vinegar
3 T. Worcestershire sauce
2 T. sorghum molasses (I'm sure regular will do)
1 T. whole grain mustard
2 tsp. chipotle powder
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Chop up the cherries and mix all ingredients together. Cook over medium heat, stirring well and often until a desired consistency. I like to stop the sauce when it's still a nice, red color, and then use it as a basting sauce over open flame. If you don't intend to cook it twice, so to speak, go ahead and reduce the sauce further, almost until it turns a browner red and has the consistency expected of barbeque sauce.

Smokin' Green Enchilada Sauce

Tomatillos, tomatillos, tomatillos.  They are multiplying every time I go out to the garden.  I needed a fresh idea, after canning some two dozen jars of ubiquitous salsa verde.  But what to make?  I am always looking for things to feed my kids, and I've been pondering enchiladas.  I am notoriously dedicated to making everything I can from scratch at home, so of course, I set about to make a tasty enchilada sauce.

I did a bit of research into what goes into a traditional enchilada sauce, and since I had some Bulgarian carrot chiles that needed using, I decided to substitute for the jalapenos.  Pro/con:  Pro, this sauce is *delicious*.  I'm so very pleased with how it turned out; con, it's smokin' hot...maybe too hot for my kiddos.  C'est la vie, as it were.  I am now the happy owner of 4 pints of put up green enchilada sauce that *Mommy*, at least, will devour, come winter.  

It's simple, delicious, and will thaw you out when the deep freeze hits this winter.


2 lbs tomatillos
4 poblano peppers
3 Bulgarian carrot chiles (or substitute as you wish)
1 large onion (about 1 cup)
4 c. chicken stock
1 bunch cilantro
kosher salt
olive oil


Remove the husks from the tomatillos, wash, and place on a baking tray.  Deseed the peppers, slicing all the way down one side and flatten on the baking tray with skins up.  Quarter the onion and separate the sections, adding them to the tray.

Drizzle the trayed veg with olive oil and sprinkle liberally with kosher salt.

Roast in a 450 degree (or 425 convection) oven for 30 minutes.

Dump the veg into a large soup pot and stir in stock.  Simmer over medium-high for 15 minutes.  Chop cilantro and stir in, then puree with an immersion blender. 

If necessary, adjust seasoning.  Pour into clean jars or ziplock bags. 

You will want to eat this within a week or freeze it.  The low acid content makes it a bad candidate for water bath canning, and it's not tested for pressure canning.  If you choose to not freeze, be sure to store in the refrigerator.

Makes 4 pints.
Smokin' Green Enchilada Sauce on Punk Domestics