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Fresh Ham, Brine Temps, and Food Safety

RyezzaRyezza Posts: 19
Merry Christmas fellow Eggers!

The last few years I've heated up a pre-cooked spiral ham in the egg for Christmas, but this year I decided to try to smoke a fresh half-ham. I picked up the meat at an awesome local butcher shop 3 days ago, threw it into a brine solution that included a heavy dose of salt and a bit of whiskey (with sugar, aromatics, etc.), and put the bucket into the mini-fridge in my garage. The coldest that fridge can go is 45 degrees, so I've been dumping a bunch of ice into the bucket every evening to try to keep the brine at or below the recommended 41-degree mark.

Today is the day of the smoke, but when I went to check the brine this morning, I noticed that all the ice had melted (which wasn't the case on day one). I grabbed the thermometer and found that the temp of the ham is currently 43 degrees, so just slightly into the "danger zone". I'm nervous about serving it to the company today, and I'm debating running out to grab another pre-cooked spiral to serve instead.

I realize that many bacteria can't survive at 43 and those that can survive would multiply very slowly, but I'm nervous about Staphylococcus Aureus (given that it's ham) and protein toxins that could survive the cook. On the other hand, an extremely cold bucket of water loaded with salt and booze is a pretty hostile environment for bacteria to survive. I've read every range of opinions on this, but I'm looking for more input: am I being paranoid, or should I dump the pig and grab another one (which would make me extremely sad!). Thanks!

Comments

  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 26,707
    What is the salt concentration of your brine?
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  • RyezzaRyezza Posts: 19
    edited December 2017
    I added roughly a cup of salt per gallon of water. Probably somewhat diluted over the course of the 3 days by the ice cubes that I was adding each day.
  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 26,707
    So around 5%. You're ham, provided it was safe when you started, is fine and safe to eat. 
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.  Love me or hate me, I am forum Marmite.
    Large and Medium BGE, Kamado Joe Jr, Akorn Jr, smoker with a 5k btu AC, gas grill, fire pit, pack of angry cats, two turntables and a microphone, my friend.  Registered republican.
    New Orleans, LA - we know how to eat 

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