After curing in the fridge for several weeks, the ham was ready to dry out. The process started in the attic…
January 3rd, morning – Removed the leg from the fridge, a small amount of liquid had accumulated in the plastic wrap over the past few weeks. I discarded the plastic and rinsed the cure mixture off of the meat, then patted it dry. I replaced it in the fridge for a few hours, which got rid of any remaining moisture on the surface of the meat. The meat was firmer than it was originally, but not dried out anywhere.
I created a “sugna” of 1/2 cup of brown rice flour, 1/2 cup lard, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. I covered the bone ends of the leg with the sugna paste, being careful to press it into any cracks to avoid air pockets. I then wrapped the leg in cheesecloth, tied it with butcher’s twine, and hung it in the attic. Conditions in the attic were 45°F and 55% humidity. The leg weighed 9.5 lbs when hung.
January 9th, afternoon – The ham is down to 9.1 lbs. Over the past week the temperature in the attic had hovered between 35° – 45° F, but dipped down to 26° one night. Relative humidity in the attic had fluctuated between 40% and 60%. I installed some insulation and some boards above and on one side of the ham, and placed a radiator-style space heater on the floor a few feet away from the ham. The heater was set to the lowest setting. (Space heaters can be dangerous, so I researched this type of heater before using it in my un-occupied attic and found it was the safest type. If you choose to do something similar, be safe and ensure the heating device can’t set your house on fire.)
January 17th, afternoon – I took the ham down and removed the cheesecloth. The ham had become darker and firmer, and one corner of the meat was quite hard. The areas where the sugna had been applied were the softest by far. There were some white spots near the thicker part of the ham, they weren’t fuzzy so I’m not sure if it was mold, but I wiped them off with a cloth dipped in apple cider vinegar.
Due to the low humidity and how hard the one part of the ham had become, I decided to coat the entire thing in sugna. I wiped the old sugna off, created a fresh batch by doubling the recipe above, and rubbed it over the entire ham. I then re-wrapped it in cheesecloth, re-tied it with butcher’s twine, and hung it in my attic. I re-weighed the ham, the sugna added .82 lbs for a total weight of 9.41 lbs.
January 23rd – The ham had lost half a pound in the past week, so it was clearly still drying out quite quickly. The relative humidity had started dipping into the 30%-35% range on occasion, so I placed a pot of water near the heater and put a fan in front of it blowing toward the ham. The fan was on a timer so it would go on for a couple of hours at a time twice a day. This seemed to keep the relative humidity around 40%.
January 30th – The ham weighed in at 8.8 lbs, which means it lost only a tenth of a pound in the past week. Since first hanging the ham four weeks ago it has lost 1.5 lbs.
The slower rate of weight loss continued over the following few weeks, humidity in the attic stayed between 35% and 55% and the temperature remained between 38° and 52°.