This is something I have always wanted to do, so when a good friend of ours gave us half a pig as a gift I could not resist turning the leg into this stunning air-dried cured ham.
The most important route to success with this recipe is time and patience. You must not ‘force’ or try to hurry the curing process along as this will result in a disaster.
We used a meat curing cabinet for this process, as it’s the safest method (we made our own with a fridge, but a temperature-controlled wine fridge works well with a dehumidifier and humidity meter). Humidity also plays a huge part in the process, so I suggest that you buy an inexpensive humidity meter from a DIY store to help you out.
Once the meat was cured and ready to use we were pleasantly surprised at how many servings we got from it. It kept well for a couple of weeks or so (in the fridge) and was used in many delicious dishes.
I buy the Prague powder (cure) No. 2 from https://www.sausagemaking.org/acatalog/cure_2.html
Ingredients & Method
- 25g Prague powder (cure) No. 2
- 40g black peppercorns
- 40g coriander seeds
- 40g dried juniper berries
- 50g garlic powder
- 250g demerara sugar
- 350g sea salt (use salt that does not contain iodine or anti-caking agents – sea salt is the closest to pure salt)
- 8.5–9.5kg fresh pork leg, bone in and trotter removed
- 1kg lard or duck fat
(You need 80g cure for each 1kg pig leg)
Prepare the cure. Using a pestle and mortar, pound the Prague powder, peppercorns, coriander seeds, juniper berries and garlic powder together to make a fine powder. Mix the powder with the sugar and salt.
Pat the pork leg dry with kitchen paper, then rub half of the cure mixture all over the pork leg. Wrap the entire leg tightly in cling film, put it in a large plastic tray (or use a shallow plastic container or ceramic dish), then place it in the fridge for 15 days, turning the leg every day.
Unwrap the pork leg, pat it dry with kitchen paper and then rub the rest of the cure mixture all over the leg. Wrap the entire leg tightly in fresh cling film, put it back in the tray, then place it in the fridge for another 15 days, turning the leg every day.
Remove the pork leg from the fridge and remove the cling film, then place the leg in a large container, cover it completely with tepid water and leave to soak for 30 minutes.
Remove the leg from the water and drain it, then pat dry with kitchen paper. Put a meat hook through the trotter end of the leg and then hang it in the fridge for 6 hours.
Transfer the leg to a meat curing cupboard (see intro) and leave it to hang for 3 days at about 22°C, 60–80% humidity.
Let the lard or duck fat soften at room temperature until it becomes a thick smearing consistency. Cover your hand with a disposable glove and smear the softened fat on the exposed meat side of the leg (do not cover the skin), pasting it on thickly and ensuring that the meat is well covered. Return the leg to the curing cupboard and leave it to hang for a further 6–8 months at about 15°C, 60–80% humidity. During this time the meat will gradually become firm, but it should give slightly when you press it once it is ready.
To serve, carefully remove the fat, cut about 5mm of the meat off and discard, then thinly slice the cured ham and serve (see Serving Suggestions below). Store the cured ham in the fridge and use within 2 weeks, slicing it as required.
Antipasto Platter – serve as part of a large sharing platter to include a selection of cured meats (including the air-dried cured ham), breads, pickles, chutneys and salad.
Starter – serve the air-dried cured ham with fresh mozzarella, pickled mushrooms, rocket leaves and a drizzle of salad dressing.
Snack or Light Lunch – top toasted bruschetta with crushed mint peas, crumbled goat’s cheese and air-dried cured ham.
Main Course – Wrap slices of the air-dried cured ham around chicken breasts and roast in the oven, then serve with roasted squash.