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First Bear Ham

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Hi everyone.  I tried this on the curing forum but it looks like there is more action over here and I'm itching for some more feedback. (and I figured the photos out better).


I'm new to the forum (and smoking) and looking forward to becoming a better smoker.  I recently shot my first black bear and was excited to try making a homemade ham.    I researched ham curing and found some supplies at CTR refrigeration.  I got an injector, brine bucket, and FS cure.  The FS cure is their curing salt which is a 5% sodium nitrite blend.  I have a new to me Char Griller Pro which I have done a few recommended mods that I smoked on.





Here is the recipe I used, brining time, and cooking times and temps


bear ham            - 1 10lb bone in

water                   - 4.25 L

Pickling Salt        - 1.5 cups

brown sugar        - 2 cups

FS cure        - 9 tsp of 5% sodium nitrite (most cures I see 6.25% so I added 1 extra tsp, I later calculated it and will use 10 tsp next time)

pickling spices    - 1/2 cup

garlic cloves        - 5



-Boil all ingredients except FS cure.  Let cool then add cure.  Smells good!

-Trimmed fat off bone in ham

-Inject 8 oz of brine into meat getting next to bone

-submerged in brine for 7 days, flipped on day 3, injected more brine on day 6

-take out of brine and rinse throughly

-pat dry and let air dry over night in the fridge

-took out of fridge and rested at room temp for 1.5 hrs

-tied up with butchers string

-bbq over water bath at 400-450 F for 2 hrs (wife didn’t want bear cooked in her oven!)

-internal temp 148 F to

-moved to smoker preheated to 200 F

-smoked for 1.5 hrs with applewood and cherrywood chips

-internal temp rose to max 172 F

-looks amazing!!!

-pull from grill and wrapped in foil for 15 minutes

-cut a piece near the end and beautiful dark pink almost red meat

​-very tasty and not too salty.  Not gamey at all

​-cut through the thicker part and 2 grey dime sized areas appear indicating the cure didn't make it all the way through the meat.

-cut another section and the non cured spot has grown to the size of a quarter (would the 1 extra tsp have helped)

​-did not eat anymore and dissapointed because the cure went to the bone nicely

-go on google and read about botulism from uncured ham

-read advise to throw ham out

-sign up on smoking meat forum to gain more knowledge!!








I realize it was quite an ambitious project for my first meat curing and full smoke endeavour but all in all I thought it went really well and I'm really disappointed about the cure not fully penetrating.  It looks like it is the centre of an internal muscle group that I must not have hit with the injector?  Does cure have a tough time going through facia in the centre of muscles?  


Please offer comments and recommendations on my overall procedure, risk of botulism and if I really have to throw this ham out.  It has now been in the fridge for a day and half as I've searched for info and put together this post!!


I'm not deterred though and have a batch of Canadian back bacon in the brine now!  


Thanks for your input!!



post #2 of 8

It's a shame to throw out that beauty meat, but it might be the right call.


The more experienced curing guys will chime in to help you out, I'm sure. The only advice I'd offer is to cut into the thickest part of the meat before smoking to make sure its been cured all the way through. If it was noticed by that time, your ham may have been saved.


Sorry again for your loss, it looks great other than the uncured part!!

post #3 of 8

Wellsy, evening....    Great pictrures...   It's obvious to the eye, about cure penetration....  Great learning experience....    I'm not sure about your injection spacing BUT, you can see where it was lacking...   Using a smaller injection syringe with a sharp needle, like those in the market or on the bottle of injection sauce.....  work fairly well....  I space the injections all along the bone and joints....   then every 1.5" along the meat injection all the necessary stuff for a good cure...  If a hunk of meat that size calls for 10 tsp. of cure, it's dissolved in water, stock or liquid of choice, (NOT COLA, I've read something bad happens when cure is mixed with cola) about 10% the weight of the meat then it's all injected into the meat...


It's noteworthy you noticed the uncured sections and questioned WHY and wanted to improve...2thumbs.gif


I think the meat is safe, from your notes....


.. ..

post #4 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thanks again for the reply Dave.  I based the brine recipe off ones that referenced Michael Rhulman's Charcuterie and adjusted for the slightly lower nitrite content.  I will look into getting a better syringe for future curing projects.  


I'm currently using the same base brine but with maple syrup, and sage and tyme in place of the pickling spices for back bacon.  I did not inject the loin as the recipes I found did not call for it.  One thing I haven't really seen is what the max weight of meat this 1 gallon batch of brine will cure.  I will use the search function to check for back bacon recipes here as I'm sure there are some great ones.


Duke that is good advice on cutting to check the cure, especially on my first one.  If I found it had not fully penetrated back in the brine for a few more days.  I'll use that tip on my back bacon.  

post #5 of 8

Wellsy,  Any meat over 2" thick should be injected.....   With Pops brine, it is an equilibrium brine...  Meats need time for the ingredients to penetrate fully...  

From Pops thread..

Curing times vary with meat, but generally overnight to 2-3 days for chickens and turkeys, 8-10 days buckboard bacon, 10-14 days belly bacon, pork shoulder, whole butts, 3-4 weeks whole hams, 10-20 days corned beef (fresh beef roasts, briskets, rolled rib roasts, etc.)   If whole muscle is more than 2" thick, then inject so it can cure i/o as well as o/i, and/or in and around bone structures, etc.

post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 

I have to check out this Pops cure thread.  It should be fine to inject with the brine it is currently in correct?  That was my original plan.  I cut the loin in about 8" sections and I was going to make one injection in the centre of each end and slowly draw the needle out while injecting.  Or should I do 3 injections per end that would end up being 1.5" apart?


Here is the brine I used for 2 x 8" sections (approx 3 pounds each)


1 gal water

10 tsp of 5% sodium nitrite cure

1 cup pickling salt

1 cup brown sugar

.5 cups maple syrup/honey mix

2 tbs ground sage

2 tbs thyme

5 cloves garlic


I did boil the brine and add the nitrite later after it had cooled.  It wasn't totally cooled down though, probably slightly above room temp still at that point. Some recipes I found called for only a 3 day cure with just putting the loin in a ziplock with the brine, no injection??  I was planing on pulling one at 3 days (this weekend), and one at 10 days (next weekend) and seeing the difference

post #7 of 8

One chart says 1 tsp. cure #1 weighs ~ 5.7 grams....  5.7 grams X 0.05 (% nitrite in the cure) = 0.28 grams nitrite... x 10 tsp. = 2.8 grams nitrite..


1 gallon water + the salt and sugar etc. weighs about 10#'s x 454 grams/# = 4540 grams brine/cure...  = 616 Ppm nitrite brine


If you have 10#'s of meat and add it to the brine mix,  over time, a long time, the meat should end up about 300 Ppm nitrite when it all comes to equilibrium...  probably 2-3 weeks with injection...

To get the meat around an acceptable level of ~150 ish Ppm,  if you inject around 25% of the weight of the meat, that will get you there...  20% injection will get ~120 Ppm which is OK also.. about minimum for nitrite... 

Once injected, the meat has all the nitrite it needs....   zip bag it but do not add any additional brine/cure mix to the bag....   Let it sit in the refer for at least a week and you will be OK...   The weeks time will let the cure mix mingle throughout the meat and hopefully contact all areas...   Small injections every 1.5 inches will help to equally distribute the cure mix.....

One thing I do is wrap the meat with saran really well to get it sealed as best I can...  I don't wrap really tight as the meat will swell from the injection.... place in an open zip bag...   then inject the loin from the top side of the wrapped loin ONLY... inject all over the place to get the 20-25% injection into the meat...    what ever leaks out of the meat will stay in contact with it....   DO NOT turn or massage so the injected liquid stays inside the meat if possible...   in 7 days the curing process will be done....  Below is the thread where I did a pork loin...  you can see the loin sections wrapped in saran and in a zip bag and then injected with my mix...   worked really well....   It's my new go to method for loin...




post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the link Dave.  That looks amazing.  Definitely something to shoot for!

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