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OT: Prosciutto & Country Hams, and a Bresaola

stikestike Posts: 15,597
edited 3:01PM in EggHead Forum
Some progress.

The bresaola just finished the dry cure. Here it is at the start. (Again, iPhone pics, with apologies)


and today, week two, before the rinse:


and Hung, to dry for three weeks minimum, perhaps a month.

Finally got a chance to start the Prosciutto and the Country Ham, both procured Fresh from the aptly named 'Blood Farm' of Groton, MA.

A nice 16.5# Pork Leg

Step 1, remove the Aitch Bone



Step 2, create a salt pocket around the shank end, and perhaps under the skin at the hem of the fat



Also, a necessary, but not too pretty step. Actually did this first, but wanted to bury the pic in here so the squeamish would not see it right away :laugh: You must force (really work it, massage) the blood in the leg (arteries and veins) from the shank end out the severed end of the upper leg. People talk about 'blood' in their steak. There's none, really. THIS is blood.


The curing
Cheapest simplest cure so far of all. Three to Four pounds of salt.

Work it vigorously, very well, into the shank end and salt pocket, as well as in and around the bone and the joint where the Aitch bone formerly was. Jam it in, and then force in more. The salt sticks reluctantly to the skin, but do your best. Then, skin down into a roaster or pan large enough to catch the runoff, first few days it will be about a cup or so of 'water'.

Here's the leg in Old Faithful, our oval enamel roaster (non-reactive)


I turned the cover upside down, and placed it on top. Into the fridge with ten pounds or more of weight (I actually used the Country Ham, which follows)


The country ham was a matched pork leg that I got at the same time as the other. Here are the cure ingredients


All the dry ingredients mixed well with the molasses, and a veritable mortar of sorts was created


Applied the dry cure forcefully into the shank end and the joint (aitch bone also removed), and the remainder spread over the entire leg, skin included. Then bagged in a large ziploc bag, placed in the upside down lid, and both into the fridge. One day per pound.


Today, about a week along, I took the prosciutto out to check for progress and to drain off any free running liquid, and then to re-salt any exposed areas.

Here it is resalted. With about a 1/3rd of a cup of run off

Both hams are already very firm. In a way, the Country Ham is almost firmer. Sugar is as (or more) hygroscopic than salt. It's sucked quite a bit of water from the leg, and the leg is now in a semi-brine of the cure and its own liquid.

After a little over two weeks, these will get a rinse, have the exposed flesh larded and peppered, the country ham cold-smoked about 18 hours, and then hung next to each other in cheesecloth. If all goes well, the ham will be for Easter, the prosciutto for next summer
ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante


  • Clay QClay Q Posts: 4,435
    I just learned how traditional country ham is created.
    You learn'ed me, now the mystery is gone. :huh: But still there is magic in the hanging, in the air, just left there hanging, dangling for a long time. And the basement gets what? 70 degrees in summer even with the AC on? Amazing.
    Thanks sharing and have fun come Easter 2012. :cheer:
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    Botulism or Bust in 2012!

    When I first was wading through all the processes for making country ham and prosciutto, I encountered many comments like "I haven't ever done it, but I wouldn't try it because you need temperature and humidity controlled environments beyond what you can do at home"

    That of course is exactly opposite what country ham and prosciutto are all about, which is the preserving of meat at home, so that it can ride out whatever gets thrown at it, temp wise. :laugh:

    I first got interested in country hams as a fetish object back when first reading Calvin Trillen ("Tummy Trilogies"). He'd wax poetic about them, and mythologize the mold, bits of newspaper stuck to them, the furtive roadside purchase from a family who's been selling them on the side for generations, the sideways glances from his family when he'd pull it out to show guests, mold and all. The stuff is on par with Iberian ham, and the finest prosciutto.

    Cut to the chase... well. It seems many of the most revered old-timers seem to be of the idea that you should allow the ham to ride out the curing in whatever ambient temperature you are experiencing. Hot and humid in August? No harm. It won't go bad. It'll slow the drying, perhaps encourage mold. A little drier in the winter? Drying speeds up.

    There's some beneficial bacterial action that might be taking place in prosciutto (Harold McGee), and if so, the temps will speed and slow that as well.

    Anyway, cheap enough experiment to do. My issue will be whether the New England palate finds country ham too salty. And if the prosciutto is succesful, what to do with 12 pounds of prosciutto :laugh:
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 22,874
    will be interesting to see who eats it....and who survives :laugh: good intro to ham making, dont know if ive ever had a country ham, is there anything to watch for while its aging that long that might clue you in that somethings wrong or just test it out on family :whistle:
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    anything to watch for? well, maybe smell.

    mold is not bad. other than that, what could go wrong? hahaha

    seriously, though. I think the thing which astounds me continually is how utterly simple it is, yet how we (myself included) attribute all sorts of difficulty to it simply because we don't know anything about how it's done. it is completely true that 'Magic' is merely something we don't yet understand.

    Until you know how it's done, it's befuddling and mysterious and "oh i could never do that". Following a ten-second reveal, and suddenly it's "oh. so THAT's how it's done. ho hum". :laugh:

    at the end of the day, it remains true that it's time-tested, very simple method to ensure long-term preservation of meat. i suppose it never would have survived if it was complicated and rife with possibilities for failure.

    in my thinking, 'simple' doesn't mean it's not complex. just means it isn't complicated.

    rather than asking how i know if it will go wrong, i'd rather ask back, what COULD go wrong?

    and don't say "it could go bad" :laugh: , that means literally nothing. could it get eaten by rats? yep. need to deal with rats if that comes up. insects? well, that's what the pepper's for. rancidity? the fats undergo some chemical changes that guard against it, but the rind of the prosciutto is generally removed, and the country ham will be heavily cold smoked to help prevent it also.

    mold? well, a three hundred dollar ham, sold by a company a hundred years old, advises to their buyers "scrub off any mold". :laugh: green mold is benign. white thready mold that penetrates would be a problem.

    what else? will it rot? well, not if it's cured properly. and curing is easy to see, whether it cured or didn't. and i know it's curing.

    so honestly, if a person wouldn't eat it just because it wasn't an official 300-dollar country ham, and because it was made by 'that guy' (me), they probably don't deserve to have any anyway. i have no patience for people who can't explain why they do/don't like something (food, art, whatever). "just because' indicates a weenie. Yer right though, might just be me eating it all by myself. but i have gotten a few to jump on board over the past few years. everyone likes the easter lamb very rare now, even the kids

    perhaps people pay for the mystery, and don't truly wanna see 'sausage being made'... :laugh: but i find it amazingly simple, and that makes the transformation, to me, all the more impressive. almost can't take credit for any of it. just wind it up and watch it go. funny, though, how many people expect it to go wrong. i'm more than a little used to strange stares from people :laugh:
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 22,874
    i would tell everyone yours went bad so you bought a 300 dollar one just to try, then watch them all dig in :laugh: i gave up even telling anyone they are eating lamb, seems to work better than coaxing them to eat it ;)
  • Boilermaker BenBoilermaker Ben Posts: 1,956
    Fantastic! What kind of pig did those hams come from? And if you don't mind me asking, how much did you pay per pound? Is it a large farm?

    Can't wait to see what it winds up looking like next year.
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    "gave up telling them they are eating lamb"
    man, that's priceless.

    my mother served us rabbit once when we were kids. she said she couldn't eat it because she could swear she could feel the fur catching in her neck as she swallowed it, even though it had no fur. my brother said "this is the best chicken i've ever had". when she told us it was rabbit, he pushed it away and wouldn't eat any more.

    i don't understand that logic... :ermm:
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    was 1.99 a pound i think. about 35 a piece.

    what kind of pig? well, you gotta understand, these guys don't screw around. they don't get all granola and magical and crystals and pot-smokey with you. i tried the old "so, what are they fed on? do they forage for acorns and unicorn dust?" and the guy says "they're fed with feed". :laugh:

    farm-raised (not factory pork, i mean), from a local farm. Blood Farm butchers them, after buying them from the farmer, with whom they've done business for generations. so i kinda just let it roll. trusting them.

    my buddy was looking to buy a goat, and the owner took us around. he showed us some goats he';d just got in, and mentioned this one or that "is a little too thin, i wouldn't sell him to you for what you want to do with him (cook whole), i'll pull aside a nice young fatted one when i get some more in" . so, it was a tread-lightly situation, where we asked enough to feel good about the purchase (along with their reputation), but not so much that we risked being asked "you gonna eat the thing, or marry it?" :laugh:
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • Boilermaker BenBoilermaker Ben Posts: 1,956
    Hah. Probably had a few too many Ruhlman readers and Batali watchers (guilty, here) coming through his farm wanting to "get in touch with their food" and asking if the pigs were appropriately sheltered and finished on acorns. When you left, he was probably relieved you didn't ask to slaughter the beast yourself (did you see the Zuckerberg article from a couple days ago?). I half expect we'll see Whole Foods building DIY slaughter rooms in a few months.

    I'm sure his comments about the goats were reassuring.

    Good luck with your hams. Here's to no green fuzzys.
  • reader40reader40 Posts: 69

    Wonderful information on the pics and the processes. I totally agree that it is a little bit of a weak excuse when not attempting alot of those things. WOrst case scenario you throw it out or try again. That to me is the fun part!

    Good luck with the process and myself and i am sure a lot of others are looking forward to seeing the results.
  • eenie meenieeenie meenie Posts: 4,393
    stike, I can't wait to see your finished charcuterie! :) I can only imagine how you experimented in chemistry class, lol.

    My niece loves bresaola so I've been wanting to make some and I love prosciutto (I find country hams too salty, but would love to try some real homemade country ham.) If you need a taster, just let me know.

    I have the utmost confidence that everything will turn out just as you intended. The description of you at the butchers gave me a belly laugh. Wonderful post. :)
  • HossHoss Posts: 14,600
    :woohoo: VERY inspirational.Everything looks awesome. :) I hope it turns out better than your highest expectations.
  • cookn bikercookn biker Posts: 13,407
    Looking forward to the progression and the results. I'm betting for wonderful products!
    Colorado Springs
    "Loney Queen"
    "Respect your fellow human being, treat them fairly, disagree with them honestly, enjoy their friendship, explore your thoughts about one another candidly, work together for a common goal and help one another achieve it."
    Bill Bradley; American hall of fame basketball player, Rhodes scholar, former U.S. Senator from New Jersey
    LBGE, MBGE, SBGE , MiniBGE and a Mini Mini BGE
  • crghc98crghc98 Posts: 1,006
    Oh, I can eat at least 1/2 for you.... :laugh:
  • MaineggMainegg Posts: 7,787
    You mention in the other post that the charcuterie posts sink like a rock... :blink: I think a lot of people read them but feel so out of your league that they do not comment for fear of sounding stupid. reading your posts most of the time is like leafing through Ruhlman's books. i read them and shake my head and wonder about a lot of things with it.. get my book out and read some and then think I can do this lol and come back and look some more.. not sure why I am hesitant to try this.. stupid really as our old houses up here in new england probably had many a hunk of meat hanging in the basement.. wish my old studio could talk as that even still has the beehive ovens and the remains of a brick room down in the cellar. built in 1790 I am sure many a piece of meat swung down there from the old beams....
    and if us old eggers are intimidated with you LOL ......
    thanks again for broadening our world with your posts :)
  • FlaPoolmanFlaPoolman Posts: 11,675
    I'll volunteer as a taster :woohoo: nice work. Oh,, and you take better pics with your phone than I do with my camera :blush:
    I have the book but haven't jumped in yet.
  • Wow!!! Truly impressive. Where did you learn all these techniques??
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    they actually allow some customers (Halal) to slaughter the animals themselves. not me... hahaha
    no thanks.
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    i was no good in chemistry. physics, yeah, but valent electrons and chemical reactions? no good at that stuff :laugh:
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    i hope it turns out non-lethal. anything else will be bonus :laugh:
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    i'll post some updates i guess. will be fun to see how it turns out. i was gonna wait the full year before deciding to post pics, in case it went horribloy wrong. but now that it's out there, i suppose the failure will be public too. :sick:
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    out of my league. oh my. heck, that's not like it's the hundredth prosciutto i have ever done. it was my first. i dunno nuthin more than anyone else :laugh:

    i just thought it would be a good intro, because it was interesting to me that it was all fairly simple for something that i would have assumed was very difficult. anyway, thanks for the encouragement. you should give it a shot. the ruhlman recipes are as simple as they sound. nuthin to be afraid of!

    as for oldtimers bein intimidated... i hope that was a joke. :blush: i wasn't posting it to make it look complicated, but rather to show how easy it is (so far anyway). kinda like 'if i can do it, anyone can' :laugh:

    your studi0o sounds cool. i bet the 'brick room' is a nice big arched space under the central chimney, right? the arch saved them from having to otherwise build a massive foundation under the chimney. if you threw a door on that, you would have the PERFECT space to dry cure hams and sausages. very jealous
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    i had to take those pics into photoshop and fix their exposure and blurriness, truth be told. i need a new camera
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    thanks. as for wehere did i learn them, i'm still only learning them right now, as i do it. that was my first attempt at prosciutto and a country ham. i've done a city ham a few times, but it's a short cure, and not hung to dry for a year. actually slightly more complicated to do the city ham, but much less time.

    thankfully, i have a good beginner's guide in the book that gets a few mentions every now and then; "Charcuterie", by Ruhlman and Polcyn. completely demystifies the curing of bacons, hams, pate, sausages, etc. has been a really great addition to the kitchen
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • Little StevenLittle Steven Posts: 28,817
    Well that sure puts my "I don't know how many days" rib primal to shame. Nice stuff!


    Caledon, ON


  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    thanks for the moral support. to me, it's less about the challenge, although that's fun, but more about discovering that you can actually do this stuff yourself with fantastic results. this year's easter ham was the best ham i have ever had, and it wasn't necessarily anything i did, other than follow a simple process. it really makes you think twice about ever paying 75 bucks for a spiral cut ham. for less than half the price, you can make a moist, flavorful, HUGE whole ham yourself. cheaper AND better. that's the payoff for me. making something out of (almost) nothing. feels 'traditional' in a sense, too
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    i don't think you can put aged beef to shame, man. thanks.

    hopefully that bresaola will make an appearance at a FFFF weekend this summer or fall.
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • Little StevenLittle Steven Posts: 28,817
    Just hide it at night :laugh:


    Caledon, ON


  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
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