The Many Kinds of Cured Hams

My exploration into smoked and cured hams began last Christmas when my Dad mentioned that one of the remaining things on his bucket list was eating a true country ham. When I asked him what that was, he went into a deep definition but somehow all I retained was its a green ham that’s smoked. A green ham is what butcher call a fresh leg of pig. Well I figured that since he was hear and New Years was a few days out that I would make him a country ham for New Years dinner. It took several phone calls but I found a butcher in Albuquerque who could sell me a green ham. I can look back now and appreciate why he was so impressed when I told him I was going to make a true country ham, but that’s a story for later.

Country Ham

Started this bad boy in January to that it will be ready by Christmas. This has a 12 month curing process and is considered the Holy Grail of ham. I will post more about this later, after all I have until Christmas before its done.

City Ham

Unlike a Country Ham that is cured with a dry rub, City Hams are cured in a salt and sugar brine. Rather take 12 months to cure, a city ham is ready in about 16 days. I had a very fun recipe that I’ll post later, but spoiler alert, it involves Bourbon, or as like to say, God’s secret sauce.

Smoked Leg of Ham

Like country and city hams, a smoked leg of ham starts out with a visit to the butcher to buy a green ham (fresh leg of ham). The butcher will ask if you want the entire leg or just the shank. I always buy the whole leg, I want the bones and it just seems like a more old school thing to do. Not much to this other than thaw out, rub with spices and smoke. I will post my pork rub recipe later along with my smoking method.

Smoking an already Cooked Spiral Ham

This is by far the simplest way to get a smoked ham on your dinner table. It’s traditional to have a ham for Easter, but with COVID being what it is, I couldn’t get to Albuquerque for a green ham to process on my own and all I could get at my store was an already processed spiral ham. At least the one I got wasn’t already smoked. So you know, smoked hams you buy in the store are not really smoked, they’re soaked in a chemical that gives the meat a smokey taste.

To smoke my already cooked spiral ham, I set my smoker at 220 deg. F. and 8 hours. I soaked Mesquite chips in water for my wood flavor. Always best to soak your wood chips in water before using them, it cuts down on the burnt wood taste. I put a foil tent on the top of the ham and pushed in a meat probe to tell me when the internal temp got to 140 deg. F. I didn’t need to get up to 165 deg. F., because this ham was precooked. When it gets to 140, I’ll take it out of the smoker and glaze it and then return to the smoker for about a half an hour. While that’s getting finished, I’ll start the rest of my meal. Note, once the ham comes out of the smoker for the final time, it needs to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving. This allows the meat to reabsorb the juices, which gives the meat better taste and texture.