On November 30, 2015, my father-in-law and I ventured out into the woods outside of Plainfield, Ohio. His father-in-law’s old Ted Williams shotgun was in my hands as we walked, carrying on a generations-old tradition. We found our spots, looking at a wooded hillside across from a spring-fed beaver pond. Within two hours of taking our places, three does walked down the hillside in front of me. I took aim at the largest one and fired.
After field dressing and a bit of clean-up, I hung the doe up in my chilly garage, skinned it, and left it until the following weekend. On December 5, my father-in-law and I butchered the animal and enjoyed some backstrap steaks on the grill. We kept one of the hams intact for a curing project I was dying to try. It was wrapped in butcher paper and Saran wrap and kept in the fridge until the following weekend. This post and those that follow are what happened after that.
To prepare for this project I researched how traditional prosciutto di Parma and jamón Serrano are made, and read the handful of blog posts I could find on making prosciutto from gamey meats (including Cage Free Tomato, the Big Fat Mushroom Hunter, and Wrightfood). I am not an experienced charcutier or a trained chef–I’m just an English major who likes to cook and was looking for a cheap way to acquire massive amounts of prosciutto. I welcome any tips from those who know more than me, and ask those who come here to keep the above facts in mind as you read on.
December 12th, morning – I coated the entire ham in a hearty dose of finely-ground sea salt (specifically, an entire cylinder-shaped canister of Morton’s Finely-Ground Sea Salt). I poured the salt onto a cookie sheet and rolled the leg on it, pressing the salt into the flesh. After covering the entire ham in salt, I wrapped the lower portion of the ham (near the knee) in foil, placed the ham on a cooling rack on a cookie sheet, and placed it in the fridge. Prior to salting, the fresh ham weighed about 10 lbs.
December 13th, evening – The cookie sheet was half-full of liquid from the salted leg. I then removed the leg from the fridge, rubbed more salt on it, placed it back on the cooling rack on the cookie sheet, and replaced it in the fridge.
December 17th, evening – A smaller amount of liquid was in the pan this time. I removed the ham from the fridge and brushed off the
salt with a paper towel. I then created a cure mixture of the following spices:
- 1/2 c sea salt
- 1/4 c black pepper
- 1/4 c juniper berries
- 1-2 tbsp coriander
- 1-2 tbsp pink peppercorns
- 1-2 tbsp rosemary
I rubbed the entire ham with the spice mixture and wrapped it in several layers of Saran wrap. I then returned it to the cooling rack on the cookie sheet, and replaced it in the fridge. It stayed there for the next few weeks, until January 3rd.