Easter Dinner Preparation MEAT Insider HAM FEAST Challenge
Last month, we set the foundation for the centerpiece of an Easter feast: the ham. Perhaps you remember; it was all about brining.
a lot of moisture, so the meat can lose some of the cure. Once it starts hardening and the moisture slows down, you don’t have to keep as close an eye on it. You can check it every 3–4 weeks.
Wet-brining a ham is pretty simple. I talked about the one-to-one method — 1 cup of salt to every 1 gallon of water — plus your herbs and spices of choice. I like cinnamon, cloves, and cracked black pepper. But the choice is yours. I also mentioned that you have to keep the ham completely submerged in the brine. I want to bring that up again, because that’s how important it is. If even a small portion of ham touches the air, the whole thing can go bad fast. And if you suspect your wet-brined ham has been exposed to air and may have gone bad, you will have to start over. No one wants to expose themselves or their Easter guests to a bad ham. Since wet-brining takes about four weeks and even dry-brining takes about three days, folks who don’t have time to brine may want to know where they can get the best ham for their Easter dinner. Well, some of the best ham comes from Virginia. Virginia hams are cured for 1–3 years, and they take their ham seriously in the Mother of States. If you go to the aptly named Smithfield Inn in Smithfield, Virginia, you’ll find a strange, cured ham hanging in their establishment. This cured ham has been hanging there since 1902. They’ll even trim a tiny piece off for you to see what aged cured ham tastes like. Spoiler alert: I can tell you it tastes just like ham! There are some outfits in Virginia that have been curing since the 1700s. They still use the same old-fashioned methods — a dry, long cure. They even cure ham in buildings that are just as old as the methods themselves. That’s why some Virginia hams can be pricey. It can be a lot of work to dry-cure a ham the traditional way. In case I haven’t emphasized it enough, the drying process takes time. I even dry-cure my ham over a six-month period.
Every once in a while, you’ll want
to do a toothpick test. To perform this, press a toothpick into the meat, pull it out, and smell the end of the toothpick. If it smells at all sour, you’ve lost the ham, and you’ll need to start over. But if it smells okay, you can pack some of the cure into the toothpick hole and let it continue. Of course, once the ham is finished curing, wet or dry, and after it’s been smoked, you’ll soon realize it was worth all the work you put in. It’s even more worth it when you gather around the table with family for Easter dinner and everyone enjoys the fruits of your labor. While ham is the star of many Easter feasts, you can’t forget about the side dishes. This month, you’ll find recipes for cheesy potato casserole, smoked green bean casserole, and smoked peach pie. Each of these dishes really show how great a smoker can be. You can’t beat it when it comes to smoking just about any meat, but when you start smoking other things, like casseroles, you start wondering what else you can get away with! I will say that the smoked peach pie ends up being the star of the show at our house. It gets a smoky flavor that cuts down on the sweetness. I usually make three or four for our Easter dinner, and by the end of the day, they’re all gone. But no matter what you have on your table this Easter, I hope you and your family have a good one! –Danny McTurnan
It sure is a process. Early on, you have to check on the ham every two days, making sure it has plenty of dry cure on it. The cure pulls out
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