This is my second attempt at making prosciutto at home from my potbelly pigs. The hams weigh about 7lbs each. The fist round went great. I covered them in garlic and black pepper and then put them in a wooden box surrounded by salt on all sides with a weight on top for one month. Then i hung them for another few months. This round I skipped the garlic/pepper step to see how it would effect the flavor. Also as it was getting to be cooler fall temps i skipped putting the box in the refrigerator so as not to waste energy. It has been three weeks and I checked the hams to see if I could take them out and hang them (since the last batch was a tad too salty) and one of the hams is very green, smelly, and soft towards the hoof. The other ham is a little smelly at the incision near the hoof where i hung the pig for processing but mostly looks and smells great. Is it safe to salvage parts of these hams or is it best to toss them all together? Also does anyone have any ideas where I might have gone wrong?
I'm glad I just watched that show about people in Yunnan mountain villages preserving hams yesterday. I'm thinking there's too much moisture and it rotted. They salted the hams and hung them, one in a smokey environment and one without the smoke. Both of them were very attentive to maintaining the right humidity in the rooms where they hang the hams. I think air needs to be able to circulate so that the beneficial fungi can cure the ham and prevent bacterial growth and spoilage. If the moisture is too high it will spoil, but if it's too dry the fungi won't be able to work. They make a crust around the outside of the ham eventually and trap the right amount of moisture inside.
I am not sure if the apparently unaffected hams are okay, but the rotten one I would not trust. It is sadly the eggs, and not the ham, that should be green.
You can see with only one eye open, but you'll probably run into things and stub your toe. The big picture matters.
Do you pack salt into the holes where the hooks were?
It looks in the photo as if the green bit is right next to that hole, and I wonder if unwanted bacteria might have gotten in there?
I always pack salt into that bit, just to make sure that it dries out and cures quickly. Any other bits that got nicked during processing also get salt pressed into them, and the exposed meat end does as well.
Brushing the ham with vinegar before salting can help as well.
I've never cured meat in a fridge, but when I am processing pigs I try to do it at a time when the weather doesn't really get above around 10C/50F in the shade where I'm curing.
I read a while ago that the exposed-meat part is supposed to be facing downwards in the box and the skin-side up - I don't think I've ever done this intentionally, and my hams have been fine, but maybe this is another reason why they might fail sometimes?
Some people say that they massage the blood out from the trotter end to the other end, but I've never bothered to do this, and haven't had any problems. Some people also say to weigh the ham down with a board and a weight in the box, but I've never done this either.
If you want to be safer bone the hams, the bone allows nasties in if there are any around, it also lets you put salt inside as well as outside if the bone is removed. I would throw the one that has turned green and heavily trim the other.
The instructions I use are; bone the ham and lay it on a 2cm salt in the box, cover it in minimum 2cm more salt all round and press with a heavy weight, (the weight helps the salt penetrate) then cure for 3-4 days per kg so your ham would have been between 10-14 days in the salt. I do not use the fridge but do do it at a time of year where the temp is under 10C
having just barely surviving a bout with food poisoning many years ago
my philosophy is when in doubt throw it out
posted 4 weeks ago
Thanks for all the insight! I dont remember packing salt into the hole where they hung from but it was totally covered. Ill definitely pack it from now on. And good to know to put the skin side up. Always more tricks to learn. I think ill try and salvage the less messed up ham and see how it goes. I cured in the fridge over summer and it worked well! But now temps are low so i can cure on my porch. Thanks!
Stacy Witscher wrote:Skandi - if you bone it, how do you hang it to age? When I was aging a boned prosciutto, I laid it on a wire rack, but it took on a metallic taste.
Traditionally you leave the bone past the joint in and just take the long bone out. Personally I take all the bone out and sew the leg back up into shape and then just hang it as you would normally, you do need to check the string after a couple of weeks as the meat shrinks, don't want the whole thing on the floor after all!