"Everything in a Pig is good. What ingratitude has permitted his name to become a term of opprobrium?""
Grimod De La Reyniere
I love meats. They are a beautiful medium to use in the kitchen that often gets showcased as the best meal on the menu, be it in a pie, as a chop or cutlet, roasting joint, steak, burger, casserole or sandwich filler. People are willing to pay phenomenal prices for certain cuts of meat from specific animals because they know how good it will taste.
When I purchase my meat, I insist on knowing where the animal has come from, which means I often visit the Producer along with my trusted and valued Butcher to ensure that I feel comfortable with the way they are reared. This includes the way they are kept, their feed, their space to roam, their shelter and how much the farmer actually cares for them. There is one small holder I know that plays music to his Sheep & Lamb daily, and another that believes in massage for his herd, amazing!
One of my suppliers is a fab Rare Breeds Piggery in Dorset where the pigs have acres of space to roam, are fed on nothing but good food, are probably the friendliest ones I have ever met. Their shape is perfect, not over fed and fattened, but not too lean. I often select a Pig from time to time and when ready, it is killed and butchered to the specifications I need at the time, with nothing left to waste (I often train my staff on old school things like Brawn, faggots etc.) My favourite two finish products I enjoy creating are Pork Belly, and Hams.
Hams can be plain, which lets the Meat do all the talking with it's unadulterated freshness and unique taste, but I enjoy the steeping and cooking with flavours to end up with a truly flavoursome product. This is a curing recipe I have tweaked from an old Farmhouse cookbook which was originally from Oxfordshire area. It is best to cure Hams during late Autumn or Early spring where the air conditions are better for the process.
Beer & Juniper Cure for Air Dried Hams
Ingredients for 8kg Boneless Pork leg:
470g Soft Brown Sugar
250g Rough Sea salt
3 pints of Beer (This is an important factor of the process, as this determines a large portion of the outcome in flavour. Too malty and the product may become bitter, too Hoppy and the Ham may carry a lingering floral note. Taste the ales first, and then decide on the one for you).
235g Juniper Berries
87g Celery powder or salt
Note: The original recipe called for Saltpetre which is the product that created the Nitrates required to cure the meat as well as give it the lovely pink colour that is associated with Hams. These days, Saltpetre is only utilised in some Butchers as a means to keep their Sausages Pink and if they cure their own hams. I have changed the recipe to omit this form of salt by upping the natural Sea salts (which have a good volume of the required Nitrates), and added Celery powder or salt. Powdered Celery is a good natural alternative to Saltpetre. Otherwise, if you have a good specialist food supplier, you could use Pink salt instead.
Put all the ingredients into a pan and boil for 10 minutes.
Allow to get cold.
Place the Ham into a 5 litre tub and cover with the liquid. Cover and leave in a cold place (ideally in a chill room, or anywhere that the temperature is anywhere between +5 to +10 degrees C
Lift and turn the Ham in the tub, massaging the meat briefly every 3 days over a period of 12 days.
Remove from the Pickle, rinse off brine, double wrap in muslin and hang until dry in an airy, cool and dry place (5-9 months is best, but is ready after 6-8 weeks)