Molasses & Moonshine-Cured Ham

The charcuterie bug has bitten me again, inspired by my friend Beth’s adventures in sausage-making and finding my copy of Charcuterie by Rulman & Poleyn after the move. I had this beautiful miniature wild-hog picnic ham and a couple of pork steaks in the deep freeze, just calling to me. The last ham was a partial success and I was itching to try it again. I made sure I had all the ingredients and just dived in.

This is my quick & dirty version of the Blackstrap Molasses Country Ham, page 198-199. I’m ashamed to say I’m just not comfortable hanging meat to cure outside of the fridge. My kitchen hovers around 82 degrees during the day and around 76 at night. The ideal temp for curing meat is 60. Until I can rig a special curing box, it’s fridge-curing for me. If you’re leery of hanging meat outside of the fridge to cure like I am, this isn’t a true “country” ham, but it’s damn tasty. It’s also a smaller piece of meat if you’re a little nervous buying a 15-pound fresh ham to try this for the first time.

Molasses & Moonshine-Cured Ham

2 1/2 lb bone-in fresh “picnic ham” and 1 lb fresh ham steaks
1 1/2 c kosher salt
2 tbl pink salt/Insta-Cure #1
1/2 c raw sugar
3/4 c molasses, blackstrap if you have it
1/2 c Apple Pie Moonshine
1 tbl ground ginger
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp coriander seeds, toasted
1 tbl juniper berries

Combine salt, pink salt, sugar, and spices in the goblet of a sturdy blender. Add moonshine and molasses and puree until the mixture becomes a smooth paste. This method works very well if you don’t have a way to grind spices. Pour 1/4 of the mixture in the bottom of a glass dish, then add the meat, spooning more cure over and under each piece. The dish should be a fairly tight fit so the meat is mostly submerged in the cure paste. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and put in the back bottom shelf of your fridge. Leave for 2-3 days, turning the meat in the curing paste each day to make sure all surfaces are evenly coated.

On the 2nd or 3rd day remove the meat from the curing paste. Rinse off as much of the brine as you can. The meat should be firm to the touch. Cover the meat with cold water in a large glass or plastic container and soak for at least 6 hours. Then take the meat out and place it on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet and let it dry for another 4-6 hours in the fridge, or overnight.

Hot-smoke the meat for 3 hours at 200-250 degrees. I used applewood chips, but any fruit wood would be nice. At the end, the meat should have a strong smoky smell and be firm to the touch. Let cool all the way to room temperature, then wrap and freeze or refrigerate. To serve the picnic ham, let it come to room temperature, then braise the picnic gently in a small amount of water for an hour. You can do this on the stovetop on low or in the oven. Check the internal temperature before serving.

The ham steaks have the consistency of country ham and I’m using them like country ham, in small amounts for flavoring. The strong smoky-salty-sweet flavor is excellent for cooking with fresh lima beans.

Next up: More bacon! Happy curing!