I really enjoy Nigerian food, especially the street food (more on that another time ), but one thing I really miss from England is cured meat. You know, ham and bacon and even sausages. There is one place you can get ham and bacon, but it is over an hour’s drive away and not cheap when you get there. Even I am not that desperate for them!
So I started to research (another of my pet hobbies, researching things on the internet. Wow, I sound sad!). I found out that making ham and bacon was remarkably simple, but to make it really safely you needed something variously called: pink salt, Prague powder, Instacure. Nothing daunted, I asked Mum and Dad to bring some out with them.
Then last weekend I persuaded a friend of mine to come with me to the abattoir so we could buy the meat. The abattoir is quite an experience, not for the squeamish or faint hearted. We went on a Saturday morning which is the only time you can get pork. All the meat is laid out on tables in the open air, it helps with the smell but not so much with the flies! You can buy any part of the pig, from the whole head down to the trotters, not forgetting the lungs, intestines and stomach on the way.
I bought two big chunks of pork loin (thighs of the back legs as I now know) and half of the pig’s small intestine. One chunk (with the leg bone still in and skin still on) was destined for a ham and the other (bone and skin removed) for making into sausage meat (more on that another time). You can probably guess what the intestines were for, if not, I won’t spoil the surprise!
I dealt with the ham-to-be by mixing up a cure (½ cup salt, ½ cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon pink salt and enough water to cover the meat), sticking the meat and cure into a plastic tub and putting a small, heavy bowl on top of the meat to way it down. For those who like science (which I most definitely do!), the salt and sugar content in the cure increases the density of the liquid so that it is actually more dense (a greater mass for the same volume) than the meat and as a result the meat will try to float unless you weigh it down with something like a bowl.
I put the ham into the fridge where it would lie for 5 days in its bed of brine. Once well rested from its snooze I pulled it out and rinsed it off, soaking it in fresh water for a few hours. The consistency of the meat was now much less squidgy (a good scientific term that!) but it still had a nice pink colour thanks to the Prague powder.
Next I boiled it for an hour and a half with some onion, cloves, peppercorns and a bay leaf, then pulled it out of the pan, poured a glaze (another random thing inherited with the house) over it and stuck it in the oven for half an hour. Pulled it out, tasted a slice and got very excited! Not only did it look like Ham and smell like Ham, it tasted like Ham! We had ham sandwiches that night, deeeeelicious!
There is also a very similar process for Bacon – find a nice cut of meat, make up the cure – sure it – the slice it and cook it. we have some with egg in English muffins the other morning they were AMAZING! In a couple of weeks I’m going to get together with a few toher interested party and have a big ham making fest.