Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Ham

Irvings Farm Fresh leg of pork, smoking on barbequeIn December there was a feature in Saveur magazine on holiday hams, and I spent the better part of my Christmas break reading about the cured pig legs of the world.

The most revered traditions are those of the dry-cured hams, like Parma ham from Italy, or the country ham of the southern US. Unfortunately Edmonton doesn't have the right climate for drying-curing hams in your garage. Firstly the extreme cold of our winters prevents proper curing. Secondly the air is much too dry here, and the surface of the ham hardens and seals before the moisture from the interior can escape, leading to internal rot. One would have to set up a temperature-controlled, humidified environment. (Some day...)

I decided back around Christmas that I would brine a ham for Easter. I ordered a fresh leg of pork, skin off, haitch bone removed, from Irvings Farm Fresh. When I got it last week it weighed almost 15lbs. I brined the leg for about a week, a half pound per day, then left it in the fridge uncovered for a day so that the surface could dry and form a pellicle.

On Easter morning I smoked it over hickory chips on the barbeque. It took about five hours to come to temperature. Usually for a roast this size I would expect at least ten degrees of carry-over cooking, but since the smoking temperature was so low, around 225F, it was closer to five degrees.

My procedure and brine recipe were from Michael Ruhlman's book Charcuterie.

The ham was glazed with grainy dijon mustard and brown sugar, and served with scalloped potatoes and a salad of broccoli, bacon, and grapes.

Grocery-store hams just don't compare. Texturally they are very uniform, and kind of resemble a soft rubber. Flavour-wise,
though most grocery-store hams are naturally smoked, they only taste of salt and sugar. The home-made ham was sinuous, though incredibly tender; since it was a large cut of well-raised Berkshire, with the bones still in place, it actually tasted of pork; and the hickory lent a warm campfire complexity to that natural taste.

Easter Dinner: home-made ham, scalloped potatoes, salad of broccoli, grapes, and bacon


  1. As a person who was lucky enough to sample the ham I have to say I have never tasted anything as good as this. Store bought just doesn't cut it. Judy (Yes the one who recommended lamb's quarters and chickweed although I have to say I'm not sure that was chick weed we found in Allan's back yard because the chick weed that I had in my garden in Barrhead was like spinach only way lighter and I would take over spinach any day. The only problem with chick weed is how prolifically it grows. It requires a major challenge to keep it from taking over. I never succeeded.0

  2. Hi Judy,

    Thanks for the comment.

    We still have some of that ham in our freezer, although reheated it is nowhere near as tender or moist as it was on Easter Sunday.

    If you bring us some of your greens, we could have ham sandwiches and chickweed salad some day...