While wild pigs probably hadn’t made it all the way up the coast by the first Thanksgiving, the hogs the Pilgrims brought over with them were pretty well left to their own accord, foraging the woods for acorns, hickory nuts, grubs and pretty much whatever else they might root up. The flavor of a wild pig ham would be instantly recognizable to the early settlers on Plymouth Rock.
Although hams can be dry cured, the process takes many months. At about a week, wet cures are a much faster way to get a wild pig ham ready to bake. Wet cures rely on Instacure #1 to preserve the meat. Instacure #1, also known as pink salt, contains 6.25% sodium nitrite and 93.75% table salt. While Instacure #1 is safe in brines and cures, it must not be ingested by itself or in too high a concentration.
For a brine container, a plastic storage tub with a tight-fitting lid makes the perfect receptacle. Simply mix the brine in the container, submerge the ham, weight it down to hold it under the brine, and snap the lid on. Keep the ham refrigerated during the brining process.
Start with a skinned whole ham from a young wild pig. This one weighed in at a bit over 8 pounds. Mix the brine ingredients in your brining container. To speed the process along, use a meat injection syringe to inject the brining solution directly into the ham in several locations. Doing this cuts the brining time by nearly a third.
Brined hams can be smoked or baked. For this one, we baked it with multiple applications of a Peach Bourbon Glaze to add an additional layer of flavor. Regardless of cooking method, take the ham up to around 165 degrees.
1 gallon distilled water (additional water may be added if necessary to completely submerge ham)
1 ½ cups kosher salt
1 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons Instacure #1
1 cup peach preserves
1 cup orange juice
½ cup apricot all-fruit spread
½ cup bourbon
¼ cup honey
Mix all glaze ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a slow simmer. Simmer for five to ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
Place the ham in a large baking dish and into a 300-degree, pre-heated oven. After 30 minutes, use a pastry brush or mop to coat the ham with glaze. Repeat the glazing process every 30 minutes until the ham is done. Cook time will vary according to size but start to monitor the internal temperature of the ham after 2 1/2 hours. Once the ham has hit 165 degrees, remove it from the oven and glaze one last time. Cover the ham with foil and allow to rest for 30 minutes to one hour before slicing.
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