Now, we decided not to do a turkey for Thanksgiving, because turkey does not smoke very well. It tends to get dry and tough, and the technique is still a work-in progress for doing an entire bird, but we got our hands on a beautiful raw ham shank from our farmer, and decided that the turkey would get a pardon this year. We used about a 7 lb shank, I wouldn’t go much bigger than 9lbs because they are prone to drying out.
Ok, first you turn your pork leg into a ham by curing it. We used a wet-cure method, which involves brining the meat with:
- 3/4 C salt
- 1 cup maple syrup
- a heaping 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
- water (enough to cover your meat, I didn’t measure)
Now, you can put this whole thing in a deep roasting pan and put it in the fridge, but who really has the space for that in the days leading up to thanksgrilling? I know we didn’t, so I used a brining bag and a cooler full of ice and topped with a 25 pound bumper plate to keep the dogs out of it.
Before You put your pork in the brine, cut any large hanging hunks of fat off and score a diamond pattern in the regular layer of fat. This not only helps to release the fatty goodness into your meat while it cooks, keeping it moist. As a bonus, it also makes for a nice presentation. Did you hear about the pig who opened a pawn shop? He called it “Ham Hocks”.
Ok, that was really bad…sorry. Anyways, put your ham in the brine and put it into a cooler for 72 hours. You have to be careful bringing meat too long, or else it will lose some of its texture, so we decided not to risk losing the whole leg with a week-long brine. To get the flavor infused all the way through without doing a long-cure you can bust out your trusty meat injector and shoot some of your brine into the ham shank. Also, try to remember to flip the meat around in the brine at least once a day to make sure that all the flavor gets evenly distributed.
After the 72 hours is up, take your meat out of the brine and rinse it off lightly. Put it in a pan lined with paper towels and then put it back in the cooler to dry for another 24 hours, then you are ready to smoke. My husband would tell you to use apple wood, because apple trees grow in Washington state, but don’t do this. This hunk of meat is too big and cooks for such a short amount of time that it does not really get a proper amount of smoke flavor. Apple wood is a delicate smoke, as you will see from the lack of a bright smoke ring in our finished product. If you want your ham to be even better than mine use hickory, which is what we will do the next time.
Sorry honey. I love you.
Ok, we ran the smoker at 275f for about four hours and forty minutes with the ham in a pan. When your meat gets to an internal temp of 160 pull it off and let it rest covered for at least an hour. For additional flavor, we added half a bottle of white wine to the water pan in your smoker, and drank the other half since it is a holiday, why the hell not? Don’t forget to spray your meat ever 30-45 minutes with a mixture of half apple juice or cider and half cider vinegar. We always have a bottle in the fridge.
Thats it…you now have a basic ham technique for your next holiday. Glaze it with a little maple and you are ready to serve.
I would like to add one more thing about the color of the ham before someone asks. No it is not bright pink, store-bought ham is artificially pink from pink curing salt which is highly toxic if you use too much. If I get a warning from my butcher that curing salt could kill someone I prefer not to add it to my food in any dose whatsoever. If you want a pink ham feel free to dye it like an easter egg…but seriously you aren’t looking for color here…it is the flavor that is important. Ok…got that out of the way.
Here are our other Thanksgrilling goodies:
A green salad with figs, pomegranate and blue cheese and grilled sweet potato and poblano salad. The trick to the salad for me is adding a smoky heat, poblanos are not that spicy and to balance the flavor I add chipotle infused olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper.
there was lots of yummy snacks
Can’t forget about the pie. Pumpkin pie gave me a hard time, because I tried other recipes that use arrowroot or gelatin to thicken…yuck. Sorry people an ok substitution just doesn’t cut it for me, it just didn’t taste like authentic pie filling. Then it dawned on me, the almighty coconut butter can be used to bake anything, so I added 1/4 cup of that in with my eggs and it was flawless.
Thats is…Thanksgrilling in a nut-shell!