When it comes to eating wild pigs, a cured ham is always good. But you don’t have to take the time to cure a ham if you don’t want to. A simple overnight brine and then a slow smoke turns a fresh ham into a fine meal.
Fresh ham is more like pork loin in texture. Slice it thick for a standalone main course, or slice it thin to pile high on a sandwich. Smoked fresh hams make for an outstanding Cuban-style pork sandwich. There will most certainly be a few leftovers, even a small hog has quite a bit of meat on its ham. They make a great way to feed a crowd.
I like to smoke fresh hams at a low and slow 250 degrees on the Traeger. Cook time is entirely dependent on size, but 30 minutes a pound is a good guide. I take my hams up to 165 degrees internal temperature. Because it is a large cut, the temperature will continue to rise another three to five degrees as the ham rests before slicing.
Part of the flavor in this recipe comes from the paste rub that goes on before cooking. Chopped fresh rosemary, chopped garlic, and salt get smashed together to form a paste.
Rub it all over the ham, really pack it on there. That is a large chunk of meat, and it takes a lot of seasoning to flavor it all.
To add another layer of flavor to the ham, the recipe uses a mop sauce. As it cooks, dab or brush the mop sauce over the meat every 45 minutes to one hour. The sauce will cook on the ham, soaking into the meat, adding even more flavor.
We skin most of our hogs to get them in the cooler fast in warm weather. If you have time to scald and scrape a ham, go for it. The skin will cook up to a nice crispy, crackling, golden brown. Simply score the skin lightly with a knife before cooking to allow some of the fat to drip out as the ham cooks.
1 6-10 pound fresh ham, skin off
2 quarts water
2 quarts apple cider
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup salt
1 cup brown sugar
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons of fresh rosemary, chopped
3 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped (jarred chopped garlic works well for this)
2 tablespoons coarse Kosher salt
½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup of your favorite BBQ sauce
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Start your prep the day before you plan on eating. Mix the brine ingredients and stir well to dissolve the brown sugar and salt. I like to mix my brine in a small cooler, add the ham, then pour in enough ice to keep things chilled overnight. If you have enough room in your refrigerator, simply mix the brine in a large enough pan to allow the ham to be fully submerged and stick it in the fridge overnight.
The day of the cook, remove the ham from the brine, give it a quick rinse under cold water, and pat it dry with a few paper towels. Mix the rub ingredients, using the flat side of a large bladed knife to smash the garlic, salt and rosemary into a well-blended paste. Slather the rub over the entire surface of the ham.
Heat the Traeger, or whatever smoker you are using, to 250 degrees and place the ham directly on the cooking grate. Give the ham a light coating of the mop sauce and close the lid. After 45 minutes to an hour, lift the lid and dab on some more mop sauce. Monitor the internal temperature and continue the smoke/mop process until the ham registers 165 degrees in the center of the thickest area of the meat.
Once the ham has reached temperature, remove to a cutting board or large pan and lightly tent with foil. Allow the ham to rest for 15 to 30 minutes before slicing. Any leftovers make a great sandwich the next day.
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