Most people make one bucket list. Sam does it differently. She has a bucket list for every year. Smart. I decided to follow her example. And, for 2012, two items on my bucket list were to make (1) homemade corned beef and (2) homemade ham. I managed the ham; the corned beef has been carried over to the 2013 list. It will have to wait for a few days until there is enough space in the fridge for the beef while it soaks in the brining solution.
What’s the idea? Ham inundates the world around Christmas time. Why not just buy? Two reasons. First, really good ham costs an arm and leg. The less expensive ones (which aren’t even all that good and most are so sweet I can serve them for dessert), I wouldn’t waste money on. You know how those sales girls in groceries go around with trays offering shoppers samples of the ham they’re selling? I have, on more than one occasion, after sampling their offering, made some rather nasty — but very honest — comments about what I thought of their hams.
Second, well, it’s more complicated. For as long as I’ve been blogging, the “about” page for the food section has not changed much. That’s almost ten years of practically the same text on that page. And part of that text is where I mention that my grandparents used to own and operate a grocery in Manila and they specialized in cold, cured meat.
So, I thought about repeating history. Kind of. Not necessarily to sell cured meat but, at the very least, learn how to cure meat. So, for New Year’s Eve, we had homemade ham. And it seriously tastes like Chinese ham.
My brining solution will need a little tweaking — a bit less salt and a bit more sugar — but, other than those few minor adjustments, I can safely say that we won’t be buying any more commercial ham from now on. Homemade ham has no artificial coloring and no preservatives. In short, no pink curing salt (Prague salt) and no saltpeter (salitre).
I’d rather not write a recipe with an ingredient list and “how to” portion at this point. I’ll reserve that for when I’ve perfected my formula. But, for those who want to experiment on their own, there are three steps in making ham:
(1) Brining the meat. That means totally submerging the slab of meat in a mixture of salt, water and sugar for at least five days in the fridge.
(2) Seasoning the meat. After draining the meat from the brine, it is soaked in a mixture of pineapple juice, sugar, herbs and spices for another two days.
(3) Slow-cooking the meat in the pineapple solution. This step, I did in the oven to minimize moisture loss.
A fourth optional step is to drain the cooked ham, then boiling the pineapple mixture until syrupy. The syrup is brushed liberally on the cooked ham and the meat is baked over very high heat until browned.
Making corned beef is basically the same except that it’s beef instead of pork and there is no fourth optional step. That’s my next project.