Every spring there’s a new crop of weaners on Lopez Island. Robin and David Gibson of Two Shed Farm raise heritage pigs down the hill and ended up with 17 piglets from their two sows. Time for some smoked ham.
We were lucky enough to have two six-pound hams for a holiday dinner. A six-pounder easily fed eight people with leftovers to take home for each couple. Reports have come back of smoked ham and egg breakfasts and ham omelets deluxe the following morning.
Robin and David say their heritage pig is a combo of American Guinea hog and Kuna Kuna hog. Organic.
Before the Grand Coulee Dam was built on the Columbia River, Lopez Island was one of the centers of fruit production in Washington. Fruit wood can be found anywhere and many growers will let you have their pruned limbs. We used a combination of pear and apple on these hams. Earlier this year, I used apple wood to smoke pork belly from heritage pigs.
1 gallon cold water
½ cup apple vinegar
1 cup salt
1 cup sugar
2 tsps cayenne pepper
1/2 cup ground black pepper
1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup coriander seed
½ cup fennel seed
½ cup cumin seed
½ cup black pepper (cracked or coarse ground)
2 Tbsp mustard seed
¼ cup stone ground mustard
Clean the ham with cold water and pat dry. In a tub or pan large enough to hold the ham, mix your brine ingredients in cold water until dissolved. Immerse the ham in the brine and refrigerate for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours.
To produce the rub we toast individually the pepper, coriander, fennel seed, cumin seed and mustard seed. Heating the spices seems to release the oils in the spice and intensifies the flavor. Once toasted, put the spices together in a mini prep pulsing until they are a coarse powder. Mix in a bowl with the salt, cayenne and brown sugar.
Remove the ham from the brine and dry. I coated each ham in the mustard and patted with the rub until covered. I then placed them on a tray and refrigerated for four hours.
When starting your smoker use a chimney with a little charcoal and a page of newspaper to light. Since this is a short smoke you can even use mesquite for your hams.
I lay the wood on the charcoal and get the wood burning to the point the charcoal is gone then put in the ham. Add wood or adjust air flow as needed. Try to keep the temperature of the smoker at 350 degrees F.
I use a probe thermometer centered in the thickest part of the ham without touching the bone and aim for a target of 155 degrees internal temp. Brining any meat will help keep it moist and juicy.
A general rule of thumb for smoked ham is an hour per two pounds, plus an hour. For this cook we were estimating four hours to hit 155 and ended up going 3 ½ hours. My heat varied, as with any smoker, between 300 and 350 F.
When the hams reached 155 F, I pulled them and wrapped them in foil. It’s best to let the ham rest at least thirty minutes before serving. It is important for your meat to rest as it allows the moisture to move back into the ham and stay juicy.
Our smoked ham rested in foil for an hour before serving and was at a perfect serving temperature. I carved down the bone to have a large roast-like piece to slice into servings.
A couple months ago, I used this same rub on a whole pig. After 2 hours or so in the smoker, I wrapped a belly band around the waist of the pig to cover the bacon so as not to overcook it. The whole pig was 21 pounds and cooked in five hours at 250 F. Again, the probe goes in thickest part of the ham. Shoot for 155 F.