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Fresh ham quandry

stealthchef

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OK gang, so the other day upon stopping at my parents house, my Dad handed me a fresh ham (bone-in, skin-on) and said, "Here's you a challenge." Challenge accepted. The only thing is, after reading, thinking, pacing, and so on, I'm not sure exactly what to do. I got an electric box smoker for Christmas from my in-laws, so I'm hoping to put the two together as an inaugural meal for that smoker (as in the in-laws rightly expect me to feed them!).

So how should I do this folks? Skin-on, off, or hatched? Is there any reason I can't use the electric smoker? I'd normally go to my chimney smoker with this, but I'm hoping there's no big reason I can't use the electric. Should I hit it with some high heat at the end to crisp up the skin if it stays on? Lastly, to any owners of a unit like this, do you have any kind of preference on wood chips (brand, wood, chunks/chips/pellets)? I've never even thought about having an electric smoker. I've been smoking meat for over 10 years, but I'm also a details guy, so I agonize over anything I don't know much about. Hopefully this will get a fun discussion going. 

Light me up, friends!
 

Bearcarver

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OK gang, so the other day upon stopping at my parents house, my Dad handed me a fresh ham (bone-in, skin-on) and said, "Here's you a challenge." Challenge accepted. The only thing is, after reading, thinking, pacing, and so on, I'm not sure exactly what to do. I got an electric box smoker for Christmas from my in-laws, so I'm hoping to put the two together as an inaugural meal for that smoker (as in the in-laws rightly expect me to feed them!).

So how should I do this folks? Skin-on, off, or hatched? Is there any reason I can't use the electric smoker? I'd normally go to my chimney smoker with this, but I'm hoping there's no big reason I can't use the electric. Should I hit it with some high heat at the end to crisp up the skin if it stays on? Lastly, to any owners of a unit like this, do you have any kind of preference on wood chips (brand, wood, chunks/chips/pellets)? I've never even thought about having an electric smoker. I've been smoking meat for over 10 years, but I'm also a details guy, so I agonize over anything I don't know much about. Hopefully this will get a fun discussion going. 

Light me up, friends!
If it's truly a "Fresh" Ham, it needs to be cured.

I don't do Fresh Hams---All I do is my favorite "Double Smoked Hams".

I would recommend you check with "Dave Omak", as he is up on Doing Hams from Scratch.

Bear
 

daveomak

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Stealthchef, morning....  How lucky is that...  getting a fresh pig leg....  Bear and Al are spot on mentioning using cure...   without cure, you won't get the ham flavor and pink meat color....

Brining is an acceptable method..   cure #1, salt and sugar are the basics for the brine...  Brine takes time...  the salt, sugar and cure molecules have to migrate into the meat... sugar is the slowest..  5-10 times longer to penetrate the meat tissue than the others...  sugar offsets the salt taste when you have a finished product...

I have developed a method for us "At home curers" that mimics the commercial process....

Directly inject the required ingredients into the meat muscle...  No waiting for molecular migration...   It's all inside the muscle...   pay particular attention to injecting around the bones and joints....   bone sour is not a good thing....

Injection liquid can be adjusted for added flavor....   I have used vegetable stock as a liquid, chicken stock also...  

There are many injectors on the market...   I use the cheap ones......   I do have 2 of the expensive SS injectors...   I think the needle is too large a diameter for these small meat projects....   just my preference...  too much leaks out...

                        
          ... 
To figure the amounts to inject, weigh the leg....  I convert everything to grams because it makes this easy.....

weigh out your preferred liquid....   10% the weight of the leg...

weigh out cure #1....   0.25% weight of the leg.... or 1.1 grams / # or 1 tsp / 5#'s

weigh out Kosher salt....  2% weight of the leg...

weigh out sugar, brown or white....  1% weight of the leg...

weigh out Phosphate...   ~0.4 % is what I use...  

If you have any sodium tri poly phosphate, use it....   It really holds onto moisture... 

here's a thread about it and where to get some...  http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/255580/amesphos-you-looking-for-some

For those of you wanting to try this injection method in place of brining in a bucket, here's what I did....

In the order recommended by a reputable source, to the liquid carrier for the ingredients.. picnics weighed ~ 10#'s.... 4500 ish grams....

Weights are per 500 cc / ham
First....   Amesphos............ 18 grams ~0.4% (0.3-0.5% recommended)
Second.....   Sugar, white ....... 45 grams ~1%
Third.....     Salt, pickling ...... 90 grams ~2%
Last......      Cure #1.............. . 11 grams ~153 Ppm nitrite ( edit .. OR 2 tsp for 10#'s)
 

Below is a thread on my attempt at hams....

http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/236375/ham-from-fresh-picnics-update-10-21-money

Anywho, after weighing the leg and the ingredients and the liquid...  and mixing the ingredients per the recommended order above...

Injecting 5-10 mls per injection, will require 50-100 injections on a 10# leg...  Seems like a lot but worth it when you consider you now have everything required to make a quality ham inside the meat muscles...   NO GUESSING...   It's ready to sit in the refer for 5-6 days....

Inject along the bones and joints to insure no bone sour.....  Inject every 1.5" in a grid pattern to insure equal distribution on the ingredients throughout the leg...   Keep injecting until ALL the injection liquid is inside the meat.....

Because the injections are 1.5" apart, and cure and stuff will migrate at a rate of ~1/4" per day....  theoretically the curing stuff will be distributed equally in 3 days...   but let's wait for 5-6 days...  that way we are positive the leg is properly cured....   

Bag the leg for the 5-6 days in the refer....  some liquid may leak out but it's no big deal...   a 10% leakage will still leave enough stuff in the meat to be within acceptable limits set by the USDA...

About the skin....  I have read to skin it....  leave the skin on...    My personal experience from doing pig legs is....  My next leg will be skinned.. Only because the 3 previous hams I've done have been skin on....  save the skin for rendering lard and making pork rinds and cracklins...

...........Anatomy of front and rear legs.....


The injection needle length....  If the meat is 6" thick, you will need a 2-2.5" needle to get to the bone...    and the needle should be long enough to get the tip within 1.5" to the injection from the other side of the leg...   you are shooting for 1.5" between the injections inside the meat...   The injectors in the pictures have needles about 2 1/4" long....   good enough for a 10# leg....

I think that covers it.....   If I left any doubt, question me here....  others may have the same question...  

Enjoy the ham...    Dave
 

gary s

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Dave has you covered,  Great explanation and Method

Gary
 

stealthchef

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Hello, and thank you, Dave! That is one incredibly detailed explanation. I am so going to try that.....next time!

Before everybody throws things at me, let me explain. A couple hours ago, my Dad explained to me what exactly he meant by "challenge". This ham here was meant for our family's Christmas Eve night, post-church get-together that happens every year at the family matriarch's house. Being the Italian folks we are, it is typically roasted with little more than tons of garlic slammed into it. It's not meant to be the cured ham we all know and love. Unfortunately, his butcher didn't get it to him on time this year, so he did a pork shoulder instead. Thus, with me having the new smoker, his challenge is for me to do the same thing with it using the smoker's lower, and more accurate heat.

So, that is why I'm not doing it the Dave way this time. If I can't find an excuse to sooner, then I will certainly be doing that for Easter. That was a mother load of great info you just dropped on me, so I bookmarked it for re-reading later. 

I also found some other good info on here, as far as how to season my new smoker (better than the manufacturer instructions). I will be doing bright and early tomorrow, so I can do a trial run of ribs in the evening on this new-fangled contraption.

Thank you again!
 

daveomak

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You are welcome....  I found it made a great ham....  at least I knew what was in it...   

How about that stuffed ham recipe with all that garlic....   Dave loves garlic...  Dave loves pork....    what else is there ????
 

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