You might think that making your own Smoked Ham at home from scratch must be some sort of an impossible task, one that’s best left to the high-tech food laboratories of this world…
Because let’s be honest, the art of smoking ham probably requires some kind of a degree in meat chemistry or something, right?
Just as is the case with bacon, the process of making Smoked Ham at home could not be easier.
Granted, the whole process does require a little bit of time, but asks for so very little attention, it basically makes itself.
In short, this is pretty much how it goes.
- Make brine (Can you bring water to a boil? You can make a brine!)
- Let brine cool. (You be passive)
- Submerge meat in brine, leave it for 14 days. (Again, you be passive)
- Remove meat from brine, rinse well (WOO! ACTION!)
- Plunge meat in hot water bath for 25 minutes (A bit of action, followed by more waiting)
- Soak wood chips for 1 hour (A bit of action, followed by more waiting)
- Make wood chip pouches (Yay! Real action this time! No origami skills required, I promise!)
- Throw meat and wood chip pouches on outdoor grill (or smoker, if you have one)
- Wait… change pouch, wait… change pouch, wait… repeat several times over the course of about 6 hours
- Enjoy your very own Homemade Smoked Ham, made entirely from scratch! (DEFINITELY: ACTION!)
Let’s go, let’s make this together. You’ll see, it’s such an incredibly rewarding experience, you’ll probably never want to buy ready-made ham ever again…
I say if you’re gonna go through all the
trouble waiting time of making your own ham, you might as well go BIG! So go ahead and get the whole pork butt or shoulder or leg.
If you’re like me, you’ll probably want to have your butcher remove the bones for you, but make sure you hang on to them: you can use them later to make delicious broth!
You could also decide to leave the bone in, if you prefer. That’s fine, too. You might only need to adjust the cooking time a little…
Gather all of the spices to make the brine.
Again, I chose to add pink curing salt (not to be confused with pink Himalayan salt) to my brine, which is basically a mixture of about 94% salt and 6% sodium nitrite. This curing salt really helps in preserving the meat and preventing spoilage by inhibiting the growth of fungus or bacteria. Also, it ensures that the cured meat will keep its beautiful pink color. Without it, the meat would likely turn an unappetizing shade of grey. The amount used is so minimal that I personally don’t have a problem with it, but if you firmly oppose adding nitrites to your meat, you could experiment with celery juice powder instead (not to be confused with celery salt) which pretty much plays the same role.
I have no experience whatsoever with celery juice powder so I can’t really offer any advice if you choose to go that route…
Once your brine has been brought to a boil and completely cooled down, place your pork butt into a large non-reactive container (a clean storage container with fitting lid works really well for this) and pour the cold brine over it until it’s completely covered.
Now you need to make sure that your meat is completely submerged and that it will remain submerged for the entire duration of the curing process.
Chances are, it’ll want want to float to the top like mine did, so you will have to weigh it down with a plate or any other similar clean and non-reactive object that fits snugly inside your container.
I personally even added plastic bottle filled with water to weigh my plate down. No way that meat will ever resurface now!
Place that entire rig in the fridge and leave your meat to cure for 12-14 days. You might want to check on it daily just to make sure that your meat is still submerged.
After you meat has cured for 12 to 14 days, take it out of of the brine and rinse it really well. Tie it secure with butcher’s twine, if necessary (which it probably will be if the bones have been removed).
Bring enough water to a boil so that when you drop your piece of meat in it, it will be completely covered. Kill the heat and leave the meat in the hot water for 20-25 minutes, which will help raise its internal temperature and drive some of the salt out.
Ahem… I hope you won’t mind, but I took the liberty of borrowing the following pictures and instructions directly from my Homemade Smoked Bacon post… the process goes pretty much the same way after all!
This time, you’ll need to soak 8 cups of wood chips in water for AT LEAST ONE HOUR prior to smoking your ham.
The choice of which essence of wood chip to use is really up to you. I opted to use a mix of apple and maple and it yielded amazing results.
When your chips have soaked for a sufficient length of time, preheat your outdoor grill to 225F. Turning on a single burner on low should do the trick
While the grill is heating up, make 8-10 wood chip pouches.
To make the pouches, cut out a roughly 12” x 24” piece of heavy duty aluminum foil (double that up if using lighter foil) for each pouch and place about a cup of soaked wood chips on one end of the foil. Add a handful of dry chips to that, then fold the foil over the wood chips.
Fold all four edges toward the center at least twice, then poke a bunch of holes on the top of the pouch with a fork or other sharp object.
Lift the grill that’s above the lit element and place a pouch directly on the heat source. Close the lid and wait until smoke starts to come out of the pouch.
Take your ham out of its hot water bath, pat it real dry and place it on the unlit side of the grill; close the lid.
Smoke the ham for a total of about 6 hours, replacing the pouch with a fresh one every 45 minutes or so. If necessary, crank up the heat under the new pouch until smoke starts to come out then bring the heat back down to low.
Try and keep the heat inside your grill as stable as possible, at around 225F. Note that it’s not necessary to get huge amounts of smoke in order to get good flavor from it. However, if you feel you are not getting enough, feel free to add more dry chips to your foil pouches, or place an aluminum container with a handful of dry chips next to your smoldering foil pouch.
As you can see, I had plenty of room to fit 2 foil pouches at a time, so I chose to just add one after the initial hour and then replace the oldest one on every subsequent hour.
Your ham will be ready when its internal temperature registers 150F
You can choose to eat it right away, or if like me you prefer to eat your ham cold, let it cool completely before to slice it up.
If you can wait that long, that is. I must admit that it’s kind of hard to resist and you’re probably gonna want to try a slice as soon as this comes out from the grill. I really can’t blame you for that…
I say go ahead. You definitely deserve it.