With Easter just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking of a menu plan. Ham is often the centerpiece dish of this holiday meal. The main problem, though, is that the ham you purchase at your local grocery store has usually been raised in a factory setting and then cured in nitrates and white sugar. Yuck!
Today I’m going to show you how you can easily cure your own ham at home with just 3 ingredients. It’s very easy to do, produces a delicious ham, and is also GAPS legal. How can you beat that?
The first time I cured my own ham was for this past Christmas dinner. Having just recently purchased half of a pig, I had fresh (not cured or smoked) ham on hand and wanted to figure out how to use it. Now, you can just bake your fresh ham without much trouble, but it won’t have that “hammy” taste you might expect. It will be just like any other cut of pork.
Once you cure it, however, it now has that delicious taste that you are hoping for. Yea! The recipe I am going to share with you is based on this tutorial which I roughly followed. However, we’re going to skip the pink salt, which contains nitrites and/or nitrates. From what I have read, the reason for adding this is for the pink coloring and also to help prevent botulism. Since I’m using a pasture-raised pig and only curing it for a few days, I feel very comfortable about not worrying about the possibility of botulism. Plus, I’ll be sure to cook it thoroughly once I’m done curing it.
Before you try to cure your ham, you’re going to need a food-grade container that can fit both your ham and the brine. I ended up finding a great Sterilite container with a locking lid at Target. (I know, I know, it’s in plastic. Not ideal, but it works.)
Now that you have your container at hand, it’s time to get curing. Put your fresh ham in your container, then whisk together the brine in a separate bowl.
- 2 liters water
- 3/4 cup salt (Use a real salt, such as Celtic sea salt or Redmond’s Real Salt)
- 1 cup date sugar
Pour your whisked brine on top of the ham. If you’re using date sugar, it won’t completely blend in; it will still be a bit chunky. I didn’t mind that at all, especially once I baked it. Also, if you’re not on GAPS, you might prefer to try this with Rapadura or another unrefined sugar. If you’re not willing to pay the hefty price of date sugar, Emily at Butter Believer has a great tutorial on how to make your own.
The hard part is now done and it’s just a waiting game. Put a plate on top of the ham to keep it below the brine, then stick it in the fridge. You’ll leave it in there approximately one day for every two pounds. My ham is just under six pounds so I’ll let it cure in the fridge for the next three days.
Once you’re done curing it, you can drain off the brine and rinse it or leave it as is. I prefer not to rinse off my salt and date sugar as I think they add a nice flavor to the ham. Now you can either bake it as is or bake it with your favorite glaze. If you need an idea for a GAPS-legal glaze for your ham, be sure to check back next week when I share my glaze recipe.
Isn’t that easy? I served this back at Christmas, but was worried about whether it would actually be any good. So I asked my in-laws to bring along a small store-bought ham, just in case. At the end of dinner, my brother-in-law declared that my ham tasted much better. I think that says it all!