Ham hocks are a versatile and flavorful cut of meat that can be used in a variety of dishes. Whether you’re making a hearty stew or adding depth to your favorite soup, ham hocks can provide a rich, porky flavor that’s hard to beat.
But did you know that you can cure your own ham hocks at home? With just a few simple ingredients and some patience, you can create your own cured ham hocks that are perfect for cooking or snacking on their own.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the process of curing ham hocks step-by-step, so you can enjoy this delicious cut of meat in all its cured glory. So grab your apron and let’s get started!
How To Cure Ham Hocks?
Step 1: Make the Brine
The first step in curing ham hocks is to make the brine. In a large bowl, combine 4 cups of water, 6 tablespoons of Kosher salt, 6 tablespoons of light brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of pink curing salt, 1 bay leaf, and 1/2 a teaspoon of black peppercorns. Whisk the ingredients together until the salts and sugar have dissolved.
Step 2: Add the Ham Hocks
Once the brine is ready, it’s time to add the ham hocks. Make sure they are fully submerged in the brine and cover the bowl (or place them in a freezer bag with the brine). Put a dish under the bowl or bag to catch any leaks and place it in the fridge.
Step 3: Refrigerate
Let the ham hocks sit in the brine in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Flip them each day to ensure they are brining evenly.
Step 4: Rinse and Dry
After 7 days, remove the ham hocks from the brine and rinse them thoroughly under cold water. Pat them dry with paper towels.
Step 5: Smoke (Optional)
If you want to add a smoky flavor to your cured ham hocks, you can smoke them at this point. Place them on a rack in a smoker and smoke at 225°F for 3-4 hours until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F.
Step 6: Store or Use
Once your ham hocks are cured and smoked (if desired), you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or freeze them for longer storage. Alternatively, you can use them immediately in your favorite recipes.
The Basics Of Ham Hock Curing
Ham hock curing is a process of soaking the meat in a brine solution to enhance its flavor and extend its shelf life. The brine is typically made up of water, salt, sugar, and other seasonings like bay leaves and peppercorns. Pink curing salt, which contains sodium nitrite, is also added to the brine to prevent bacterial growth and preserve the meat’s color.
To cure ham hocks, first, make the brine by mixing the ingredients together until the salts and sugar have dissolved. Then, add the ham hocks to the brine, making sure they are fully submerged. Cover the bowl or bag and refrigerate for up to 7 days, flipping them each day to ensure even brining.
After 7 days, remove the ham hocks from the brine and rinse them thoroughly under cold water. Pat them dry with paper towels and smoke them (optional) at 225°F for 3-4 hours until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F.
Once cured and smoked (if desired), ham hocks can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or frozen for longer storage. They can be used in various recipes like soups, stews, baked beans, or roasted vegetables to add a salty, smoky, porky flavor.
Choosing The Right Ham Hocks For Curing
When it comes to choosing the right ham hocks for curing, it’s important to look for hocks that are fresh and of good quality. Look for hocks that are well-marbled with fat and have a good amount of meat on them. While ham hocks are typically sold in pairs, make sure to choose ones that are similar in size and weight to ensure even curing.
It’s also important to consider the source of the ham hocks. If possible, look for hocks from pastured pork or grass-fed beef, which tend to have a better flavor and texture. You can often find high-quality ham hocks at specialty butcher shops or at farmers’ markets.
When it comes to curing ham hocks, it’s important to use the right amount of curing salt and to follow the recipe closely. Too little curing salt can result in spoilage, while too much can be harmful to your health. Make sure to measure all ingredients carefully and follow the recommended curing times.
The Curing Process: Step-by-Step
The curing process for ham hocks involves coating the meat with a salt cure rub, which draws out the moisture and results in a more concentrated flavor. Here’s a step-by-step guide to curing ham hocks:
Step 1: Apply the Cure
The curing mixture should be applied at the rate of 1-1/4 ounces per pound of ham. Open the hock end and force three tablespoons of cure into the opening to get the cure to the joint in the middle of the ham. This decreases the chance of bone sour or spoiling. Frost the skin side with cure and place the ham in the proper position on wrapping paper. Place the remaining cure on the cut surface of the ham.
Step 2: Wrap and Bag
Wrap the paper tightly and smoothly around the ham to hold the cure in place, and place it in a stockinette. Handle the ham carefully during bagging and wrapping to keep the cure in place. You can leave the ham on a table or shelf until the cure is wet, which helps keep the cure in place. This usually takes 1 day. Moisture must escape from the hams — do not use plastic or waxed paper for wrapping.
Step 3: Hang and Cure
Hang the ham shank down in a well-ventilated area. We do not recommend moist areas such as basements and cellars. Allow the hams to cure 2-1/2 days per pound of ham. If the hams freeze during curing, allow one additional day for each day they are frozen.
Step 4: Rinse and Dry
After curing, rinse off any excess salt with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
Step 5: Smoke (Optional)
If you prefer a smoky flavor, you can smoke your cured ham hocks at this point. Place them on a rack in a smoker and smoke at 225°F for 3-4 hours until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F.
Step 6: Store or Use
Once your ham hocks are cured and smoked (if desired), you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or freeze them for longer storage. Alternatively, you can use them immediately in your favorite recipes, such as split pea soup, baked beans, collard greens or roasted vegetables.
How To Store And Use Cured Ham Hocks
Now that you’ve successfully cured your ham hocks, it’s important to know how to store and use them properly to ensure the best flavor and quality.
Storing Cured Ham Hocks:
– Refrigeration: Store your cured ham hocks in an airtight container or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to a week. Make sure to label the container with the date so you know when it was stored.
– Freezing: If you want to store your cured ham hocks for longer, they can be frozen for up to three months. Wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or freezer paper and place them in an airtight container or freezer bag. Label the container with the date so you know when it was frozen.
Using Cured Ham Hocks:
– Flavor Enhancer: Cured ham hocks can be used as a flavor enhancer in a variety of dishes, such as soups, stews, and beans. Simply add the ham hock to the dish while it’s cooking and let it simmer for several hours to infuse the dish with its smoky flavor.
– Main Dish: Cured ham hocks can also be used as a main dish, such as in a traditional German dish called Eisbein. To prepare, boil the ham hock for several hours until it’s tender, then serve with sauerkraut and potatoes.
– Snack: Cured ham hocks can also be enjoyed as a snack on their own, either cold or heated up. Simply slice off pieces of meat and enjoy!
Remember to always handle cured ham hocks with clean hands and utensils, and make sure they are fully cooked before consuming. With these storage and usage tips, you can enjoy your deliciously cured ham hocks for weeks to come!
Delicious Recipes Using Cured Ham Hocks
Cured ham hocks are a delicious addition to many recipes, adding a smoky and salty flavor to any dish. Here are some mouth-watering recipes that you can try using your newly cured ham hocks:
1. 15-Bean Soup with Smoked Ham Hocks: This hearty soup is perfect for fall and winter nights. The ham hocks add a rich and savory flavor to the soup, while the beans make it filling and nutritious.
2. Smoked Ham Hock and Sweet Potato Stew: This stew is a warm and comforting meal that’s perfect for cold nights. The sweetness of the potatoes combined with the smoky flavor of the ham hock creates a delicious and satisfying dish.
3. Collard Greens with Smoked Ham Hocks and Pickled Collard Green Stems: This classic southern dish is made even better with the addition of cured ham hocks. The collard greens are slow-cooked with the ham hocks, resulting in a flavorful and tender side dish.
4. Roasted Ham Hock with Crispy Crackling: This German-inspired recipe is a real treat for meat lovers. The ham hocks are roasted until tender with crispy crackling skin, creating a perfect balance of textures and flavors.
5. Salt-Cured Ham: If you want to keep it simple, you can enjoy your cured ham hocks on their own. Simply slice them thinly and serve as a cold cut or use them in sandwiches or salads.
Cured ham hocks are versatile and can be used in many different recipes, so don’t be afraid to get creative in the kitchen!