[I wrote this months ago and totally forgot to post it]
One of the things I really wanted to do when we got pigs was make my own Parma Ham.
I’d seen Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall do it on River Cottage with great success. Then the fabulous ladies who supplied our pigs mentioned how easy it was and pointed to a whole leg wrapped in muslin gently maturing in the breeze above my head. Of course Parma Ham is Parma Ham because it is made in Parma – so henceforth this is going to be the Westwick Ham
I did some early prep by telling the butcher that I wanted the half the leg tunnel boned (where the bone is take out by cutting a tunnel through the flesh rather than opening up a flap). I asked for 1/2 a leg only because this is a new skill I’m trying and if it goes horribly wrong then I’ll only have wasted half a leg instead of the whole thing. Plus even 1/2 a leg makes A LOT of Westwick Ham and I doubt we will have finished eating it before the next lot of pigs are ready.
Next the ham has to sit on a bed of 2cm of salt scattered with black pepper and coriander and covered in at least 2cm of salt for 3-4 days per kilo (this puts us at roughly 8-10 days for our 2.1kg joint). The container you use is a box made of either wood or plastic (not metal) which has some drainage at the bottom. The box proved an interesting challenge but as usual the house provided the answer. One of the quirks of this house is that the previous owners ended up leaving a fair amount of things behind in the house (including a vintage army messenger style bag from 1942, a good quality orange boiler suit in my size and a small dolls house). It has become a joke amongst our family and friends that if you need something, ask out loud and you will find it in a corner of the house or garage – this approach has yielded all sorts of useful things from ladders to an axe.
So I walked into the garage and asked for a wooden box in which to cure my ham.
As you can see the house did not disappoint, and after a good scrub with salt, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda then leaving the box to dry in the sunshine I ended up with a curing box which was a precise fit for the leg joint. Ta Da!
Dad then scavenged enough heavy bits and pieces from the same garage to make up the 5kg weight needed to press the ham in the salt and after that it was a very simple matter to pack the tunnel in the middle of the ham with salt, and pack the rest of the salt around it. I used nearly 5.5kgs of salt and a tablespoon each of crushed peppercorns and crushed coriander seeds. I placed the box on a tray because I’m assuming that there will be a lot of liquid running out of the box.
The Ham sits pressed under a weight for 3-4 days per kilo which probably means it will be 8-10 days for this joint. Then we take it out, rinse off the salt and wash it in vinegar. After that it is wrapped in a double layer of muslin and hung out to dry for 4-6 months. We are very lucky that Westwick has a verandah – in the Summer we will be sitting on it and drinking cocktails with our friends. At the moment it is covered in bales of straw and kindling which needs chopping but either way it is the perfect place for hanging out meaty treasures. I
‘d like this ham to be joined by a twin and a rack of ripening salami come this time next year.
I won’t be able to give you the end of this adventure for 4 months when I’m looking forward to cracking open our first Westwick Ham for a tasting session.