At this time of the year adding a new skill to your repertoire is a great way to create new traditions for the years ahead. Our recipe for how to make your own air dried ham is a great one to start off on your charcuterie journey, that will bring you endless joy, plus the perfect canapes for those hungry festive feasters.
This recipe calls for some time, but it is well worth it.
- 1 bone-in skin on leg of pork
- 3kg fine sea salt
- 500g plain flour
- 1kg lard
- A large plastic container (big enough to fit your pork leg in)
- Large kitchen scales
To start you will need to trim off any looses pieces of flesh, skin or fat. The pork leg should be clean, tidy and without any gaps. Weigh the pork leg and record the weight. You will need to know this weight later on to determine whether your ham is ready to eat. Calculate 65% of the weight of the leg. To do this, multiply the weight of the leg by 0.65. This will be the finished weight you will want your ham. A weight loss of 30% is all you will need for the ham to become edible but we like to take it slightly further, sometimes to even 40%.
In your chosen container, lay the pork leg and rub a generous amount of salt all over the leg, making sure you get into every last bit from the tip of the trotter to the bottom of the leg. Place a heavy pan or a stack of books on top of the ham with a layer of parchment paper in between.
Your ham will need to be in salt of 1 day per kg. For example if you leg weighs 6kg it will need to be in salt of 6 days. Now everyday of those 6 days you are going to need to turn your ham over. Also you will notice that there will be a pool of liquid appearing in the bottom. Pour away this liquid away and re salt the ham each day.
After your ham has finished curing, remove from the container, discarding of any left over salt as this cannot be used again. Wash the ham under cold water until all the salt has been removed. You can also wash it in white wine if your feeling particularly Italian. Pat dry and hang in you designated drying chamber. This wants to be a cold, dark room with around 80% humidity with a constant air flow. Purchasing a thermohydrometer will allow you to check the humidity and temperature. If you are unsure about the kind of environment your ham will need, it's worth doing some of research on the subject. The most important thing is the air flow. If the air if stagnant and humid you will get undesirable moulds starting to grow. White, chalky mould is a friend of yours in this situation. If in the time spent drying you get any other moulds growing you will need to scrub them off with a clean nail brush and some vinegar, we like to use live cider vinegar. If you get soft long moulds starting to grow you will need to move your ham to a location with more air flow.
After two weeks of drying you will need to apply strutto to your ham. This is a combination of 2 parts lard and 1 part flour. Mix the two together with some black pepper and spread a thin layer on the exposed flesh of the ham. This will stop the flesh from drying out too quickly and the pepper will keep away any uninvited creatures.
Leave your ham for one year or until it has reached the 35% weight loss. This can take anywhere up to two years depending on the conditions of your chamber. Only when it has reached this weight loss will you be able to enjoy your air dry ham.