Curing is the process of adding a mixture of salt, sugar, and nitrite/nitrates to meat, fish, and even vegetables to preserve and infuse flavor and color. By drawing the moisture out, the result is a texturized, seasoned, more shelf-stable version of the meat. The most common cured meats you’ll find are pork-based favorites like salami, speck, and pancetta, and the most popular, proscuitto, which has most definitely crossed your plate.
While not impossible, curing meat at home does take a bit of science and quite a lot of time but the finished product is absolutely worth the effort. Why wouldn’t you want to serve a charcuterie board that features your own house-cured prosciutto? Try some wild goose pastrami and rival the tame flavors you can buy in stores. We’ve put together a great recipe and guide for curing and drying your own prosciutto at home:
- 10-12 lb leg of pork (this should be from a very fresh ham that’s just been butchered; ask your butcher to drain the central vein and remove the ball joint, leaving the rest of the leg bone intact)
- 5-10 lb of salt
- .5 lb peppercorns
- 4-5 heads of garlic (varies depending on the size of the ham)
- A wooden box with a lid (or a piece of wood that’s smaller than the box)
- 1-2 bricks (or another heavy weight)
- Peel the garlic and grind the cloves together with the peppercorns in a food processor. You should have enough paste to spread generously on the entire pork leg.
- Pat the pork dry with paper towels, then spread a thick layer of the garlic peppercorn paste all over the leg.
- Pour half an inch of salt in the bottom of the box. Cover the pork generously with salt; be sure to completely encrust the meat. It should be encased with the salt as thick as possible so no bacteria can live.
- Place the pork in the box then pour salt on top so it’s covered by an inch.
- Place the lid on top of the ham and a brick or two on top of the lid. Unless you have a cellar that stays very cool, you will need to place it in a refrigerator for 32 days while the salt draws out the moisture. Turn it occasionally.
- Remove the ham from the refrigerator, empty the box, and shake off any excess salt. Place the ham back in the box with the weighted lid on top. Let it sit on your kitchen counter for about five days.
- Rinse the meat carefully with equal parts water and vinegar. You may have to repeat this process once or twice until all the salt is removed.
- Wrap the meat in cheesecloth, then tie and hang it somewhere flies won’t be able to get to easily. It should hang for at least six to seven months — the longer, the better. You can let it dry for two years if you have the patience.
- Unwrap your prosciutto, debone it, and remove the skin. Slice and eat!
Note: We recommend doing a little research on the proper temperature and humidity for your location, as well as what good and bad mold looks like. This is a solid process, but it’s good to read up and educate yourself on the science behind the curing process before trying this at home.
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