PANIC - First Time Curing Ham

  • Some of the links on this forum allow SMF, at no cost to you, to earn a small commission when you click through and make a purchase. Let me know if you have any questions about this.
SMF is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
You said the recipe called for boiling the cure...did you do that? Which leads to my question to some of the other people that have commented here...doesn't boiling the cure weaken it? I know it's been discussed here before but don't remember the right answer

I thought I read that also.

You've gotten great advice here, but the one piece of advice to follow Bearcarver Bearcarver step by step for store bought ham and double smoke won't regret!


Here's a pair I did. Don't get me wrong...curing your own fresh ham is very rewarding also! Just make sure to post up pics!

  • Like
Reactions: chopsaw and bauchjw
I'm in the don't boil cure camp . Heck , I don't boil any of it .
No boil for me either. Now... I do simmer my corning brine simply due to the amount of aromatics I use, but the simmer is less than an hour. The next day I add the Cure #1. There has been some discussion about the effect of heat on nitrites, and the label on the brand I currently have says to mix it with cold water.
  • Like
Reactions: chopsaw
Boiling brine will degrade nitrite. So if you need to boil brine for aromatics and other spices, do so without nitrite, then cool the brine and dissolve the nitrite Last.
Hello everyone,

I apologize for making my first post like this, but I am posting this in a complete panic. My husband and I decided to cure and smoke a ham for Christmas. We've smoked many meats before but never cured anything. Long story short, we found a recipe online and the ham has been in the wet brine for 5 or 6 days, now.

Reading back over the recipe I noticed in the comments a lot of people alarmed about the amount of Prague Powder #1 called for. The recipe called for 1/2 cup curing salt to 2 gallons of water, for a pork butt anywhere from 1lb to 12lbs. Ours is about 6.5lbs. The comments sent me off researching and I now realize that IS an alarming amount, though about 1/2 the commentors reported good experience with the recipe.

What I'm asking is, is the ham ruined? Is it salvageable? Is it unsafe? My husband is going to be crushed, because we probably won't have time to do another one right, now. If the ham is ruined is there anything I can suggest that he could get done by Christmas so he isn't so down about the wasted effort?
This may be a longer post and I apologize in advance.

First off this is a stronger brine than most here are comfortable with using but nothing in this brine is out of compliance with USDA standards.

Brines without injection are a bit of a guessing game because we rely solely on percentage of uptake in the meat, this varies greatly piece to piece for many reasons such as fat content, moisture content of meat, type of muscle and type of animal to name a few. There really is no standard amount of pickup but it is accepted that 10% is maximum and 4% is closer to reality.

Another question here is weather or not this pork butt was “enhanced “ meaning pumped with a solution of water, phosphate and salt? Some are and some are labeled as ”Fresh” or no added ingredients. The enhanced meat will uptake much less brine than a pure natural piece of meat. This is important to note since we need this uptake to get nitrite into the meat, and that uptake is reduced if the meat has already been “pumped”. This means less nitrite uptake and a weaker cure.

In reading the recipe as well as the original post and doing some reverse engineering, you have about a 40* SAL brine, meaning it’s about 10% salt. This is certainly strong enough to get the job done but not so strong as to make the meat way over salty, although I would soak in fresh water for a few hours before smoking. The Nitrite parts per million (ppm) are close to 1200ppm in the brine, this may seem really high to some, but actually when considering a maximum of 10% uptake we only will impart about 120ppm maximum in the meat, USDA maximum is 200ppm in hams, and their maximum brine has 1970ppm nitrite.

Some will suggest injecting some of the brine into the meat then submerging in the brine and while this can be good advice, this particular brine is to strong for an injection and cover. You could mix this brine and inject the ham up to 10% meat weight then place the ham in a plastic zip bag or container with no more brine and let it cure. This method gives very predictable results and a much more known salt and nitrite level, but is very wasteful of brine for doing just one ham. I will share a recipe for this process at the end. It’s how I do most all of my hams and frankly they are some of the best I’ve ever eaten, you can make them too.

My general thoughts are that if you let this ham ride in the brine until New Years you should have an acceptable product, since it is boneless I think you will squeeze by with 13-14 days in brine, mostly because of the higher salt concentration of the brine, but this assumes no injection from the processor. If this was a bone in, I would suggest removing from the brine and mixing up a 10% weight mixture to inject then zip bag and finish in the fridge for New Years.

Here is a link to a thread here on SMF that shows step by step how to make the most delicious city ham you’ve probably ever tasted. We affectionately call this Dave’s Ham. If you try this recipe try to only use Kitchen Basics no salt broth, it makes a big difference in the final product.
Good post SE! I will add that when cooking/smoking the ham, if a low temperature is used then the heat will help to push the cure in further and speed equalization...
Hello everyone!

Sorry for going silent! I really appreciate everyone's thoughts and advice. We went ahead and had the ham on Christmas. If I got the dates right, that means it was in the brine from the night of the 12th through the morning of the 25th. After soaking it for a couple hours (no boiling!), mostly because we kept forgetting to change the water, we smoked it on the Traeger at 225F for about 6 hours.

It came out prettier than expected, with just a pale spot in the center. It tasted pretty good but was salty enough that we didn't keep the leftovers. It's a learning experience as you all said.

Here is the cross section, as requested!

  • Like
Reactions: bauchjw and TNJAKE
Sure does look good and you got some great advice to think of in the future. When you get ready to do anymore curing projects stop by here first. You will be rewarded with excellent advice and have a top notch end product
  • Like
Reactions: bauchjw and Ersley
It came out prettier than expected, with just a pale spot in the center. It tasted pretty good but was salty enough that we didn't keep the leftovers. It's a learning experience as you all said.
It looks like it came out decent. I would have kept the left overs for seasoning beans and the like. I use country ham in my beans, which is really salty. Just have to remember not to add much, if any additional salt to the beans.
  • Like
Reactions: bauchjw and TNJAKE is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

Latest posts

Hot Threads