Rusty’s country ham

Rusty’s country ham

By
From
Deep South
Makes
1 ham
Photographer
Andy Sewell

Country ham is the South’s cured and air-dried equivalent of serrano, the delicately salted and smoked Spanish ham. I’m fascinated by all methods of preservation and a good, Southern- styled country ham is probably the Holy Grail for me. I’ve tasted and tested numerous different recipes, but I like to stick with this one, which I learned from chef Rusty Bowers in Atlanta, Georgia.

Be sure to buy your leg of pork from a farmer or butcher that you trust. This cure works well across many heritage hogs, including Berkshire, Mangalitsa and Old Spot, but I prefer the size and plumpness of the Tamworth ham, reputed to be the oldest English heritage pork breed. Have your butcher remove the aitchbone and trim the leg just above the hock, using a butcher’s saw to go clean through the bone.

Because of the extended maturing time, you will have to wait a year or so before you can eat this – but it will be well worth the wait.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
a leg of pork, prepared as described
sea salt
prague powder number 2
sorghum syrup

Method

  1. Weigh the leg of pork in order to calculate the quantities of the other ingredients. You will need 5 per cent of its weight in sea salt, 0.25 per cent in Prague powder number 2 and 2.5 per cent in sorghum syrup (or black treacle). Rub the leg all over with the salt and Prague powder, then pour over the syrup and rub it in well. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 days, turning it every 3 days.
  2. Thoroughly wash the ham, dry it and then hang it for 2 days in a cool, dry place such as a cellar, garage or barn. Ideally the temperature should be around 13°C, with 65 per cent humidity.
  3. Place the ham in a smoker and cold smoke at 38°C for 24 hours. Hang in a cool, dry place again for 7 days and then repeat the smoking process. Wrap the ham in muslin and age it by hanging it in a cool, dry place once more for 10–14 months, until it has lost about a third of its original weight. It will gradually become covered in a white bloom, which is a sign of good aging. Any green or darker moulds that develop are a sign of bad bacteria that have infiltrated the process, most likely due to unclean work areas or ineffective curing. These parts should be discarded.
Tags:
American
Southern cooking
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