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.

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