The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Home cured Christmas ham

Photo: Toy pigs

Photo: Toy pigs

I love ham, bacon, salami – well most processed meats actually. They get the thumbs down from the nutritionists due to their high salt and fat content. Having found out how easy it is to cure bacon at home using far less salt than traditional cures I decided to have a go at curing a ham last Christmas.

We bought some local free range pork and used our wet cure for bacon recipe as the soak. The recipe is here the only difference in curing a loin of bacon and a leg is time. The leg was soaked for three weeks in the fridge submerged with a heavy metal lid. I left it for half a day in the warm kitchen to dry a bit, wrapped in butchers muslin and smoked it for three days over a smouldering log in our ingle nook chimney. It tasted wonderful and worked out much, much cheaper than the commercially produced ham you can buy at the supermarket.

As I’m still laid up we are not hosting Christmas this year. We can both relax and taste some else’s cooking. It’s going to be turkey at Seraphina’s.

We are happy to forgo the goose but we can’t bear the thought of no Christmas ham. I’ve ordered another leg this year. Ours has to be collected on Monday to be cured smoked and ready for Christmas Eve. Our ham freezes beautifully and seems to keep well in the freezer. We had the remains of last years in a frittata this week and it was delicious.

So if you have the facility to smoke a ham you still have time to cure one for Christmas. We are giving some of our gourmet friends our smoked bacon and ham this year as Christmas presents. Real tip top treats that don’t cost a lot to make.

Do you love cured ham? Get it the easy way in christmas food hampers

Disclaimer: As our cure contains far less salt that a traditional cure it will not keep in the fridge for longer than about five days once it’s been cured and smoked.

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  1. bert elliot

    Hello Fiona,
    I have had a 9 kg ham dry curing for 3 weeks now. I changed the salt a week ago, and it seems fine. I intend to leave it another 10 days. I was given a whole load of lovely dry cherry wood and aim to smoke the ham in our inglenook chimney which has a convenient hook on which to hang things.
    A farmer friend kept his bacon hanging in the chimney and just cut flitches off it as required. Is this recommended & will the ham keep?

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Wizard

    This is a very low salt cure for people who should really cut down on their salt intake hence my disclaimer at the end
    “As our cure contains far less salt that a traditional cure it will not keep in the fridge for longer than about five days once it’s been cured and smoked.”

    It freezes well so we slice an freeze it in batches to use over the next few months.

    If you want a ham to last a year go for a cure with masses of salt and saltpeter and a much longer soak time!

  3. Wizard

    Just a quick question How long does this method last (The meat uncooked I mean)Being a good Lincoln Lad In my opinion Good salt dry cured bacon and ham lasts well over a year does this cure?George

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Mary

    I’m so pleased that you can now eat decent bacon in France. Life without bacon would be very dull.

    Hi Arleen

    You can use saltpetre. I cured my first chunk of bacon with this but it is not essential as long as you know that the bacon/ham will just last a few days in the fridge.

    Hello Talley

    I developed this low salt cure as Danny has high blood pressure and salt is bad for him. The ham will not keep for nearly as long as a conventional ham. I get round the problem by freezing it in slices after a few days – it freezes well.

    HFW is using a more traditional cure that would be far too salty for Danny.

    Last year’s ham was 5 kilos. This year’s ham is 7.5 kilos.

    Yes our ham tastes very good – better than any ham that I’ve ever tasted. So you could drop the salt ratio by 75% and would have good results.

    As our recipe is low salt there’s no need to soak the ham before cooking.

    Yes I think HFW’s recipe is a traditional one.

  5. What a fantastic blog! I just came across your site while searching for info on curing ham… I’m glad to have found it and look forward to following along.

    I just finished curing and smoking a ham for thanksgiving here in the US. It was a relative success (you can see my ham and the method I followed here, but it was kind of salty and I’m trying to figure out more about salt ratios. I followed HFW’s wiltshire cure in the river cottage cookbook. The difference between salt ratios is staggering: His recipe calls for around 475 grams of salt per litre of liquid, whereas the one you have linked to here calls for about 110 g/L. over 4 times the salt! His calls for a duration of 1.5-2 days of soaking per pound, or about 2 weeks for a 7 lb ham, relative to your 3 weeks (how large was your ham?)

    I’m just learning, so if you don’t mind, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the incredible differences in salt ratios.
    1) Do you think I could just reduce the salt in the recipe I was using by 75% (!) and get good results?
    2) Do you soak your ham in changes of fresh water before cooking, or is it unnecessary in your method?
    3) Is that high ratio of salt called for by HFW simply a relic of older times when curing was used more for preservation and storage?

    once again, love your blog.

  6. Arlene Kelaart

    Isn’t it necessary to use Saltpetre in the curing process?

  7. I tried your sweet bacon cure on a chunk of pork belly, Fiona, and am thrilled to report that it worked a treat. We have difficulty in getting decent bacon here in France, so I am now able to provide our own. Just looking round now for a cider cure for a chunk of gammon for Christmas.

  8. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Toffeeapple

    I was surprised that it worked so well and it was so easy 🙂

  9. Toffeeapple

    Christmas without ham is NOT nice. I wish I could smoke my own. 🙁

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