Recipe: Directions for Curing Ham or Bacon

HAM or bacon, however well cured, will never be good unless the PORK of which it is made has been properly fed. The hogs should be well fattened on corn, and fed with it about eight weeks, allowing ten bushels to each hog. They are best for curing when from two to four years old, and should not weigh more than one hundred and fifty or one hundred and sixty pounds. The first four weeks they may be fed on mush, or on Indian meal moistened with water; the remaining four on corn unground; giving them always as much as they will eat. Soap-suds may be given to them three or four times a week; or oftener if convenient.

When killed and cut up, begin immediately to salt them. Rub the outside of each HAM with a tea-spoonful of powdered saltpetre, and the inside with a tea-spoonful of cayenne pepper. Having mixed together brown sugar and fine salt, in the proportion of a pound and a half of brown sugar to a quart of salt, rub the PORK well with it. This quantity of sugar and salt will be sufficient for fifty pounds of meat. Have ready some large tubs, the bottoms sprinkled with salt, and lay the meat in the tubs with the skin downward. Put plenty of salt between each layer of meat. After it has lain eight days, take it out and wipe off all the salt, and wash the tubs. Make a pickle of soft water, equal quantities of salt and molasses, and a little saltpetre; allowing four ounces of saltpetre to two quarts of molasses and two quarts of salt, which is the proportion for fifty pounds of meat. The pickle must be strong enough to bear up an egg. Boil and skim it; and when it is cold, pour it over the meat, which must be turned every day and basted with the pickle. The HAMs should remain in the pickle at least four weeks; the shoulders and middlings of the bacon three weeks; and the jowls two weeks. They should then be taken out and smoked. Having washed off the pickle, before you smoke the meat, bury it, while wet, in a tub of bran. This will form a crust over it, and prevent evaporation of the juices. Let the smoke-house be ready to receive the meat immediately. Take it out of the tub after it has lain half an hour, and rub the bran evenly over it. Then hang it up to smoke with the small end downwards. The smoke-house should be dark and cool, and should stand alone, for the heat occasioned by an adjoining–building may spoil the meat, or produce insects. Keep up a good smoke all day, but have no blaze. Hickory is the best wood for a smoke-house fire, In three or four weeks the meat will be sufficiently smoked, and fit for use. During the process it should be occasionally taken down, examined, and hung up again. The best way of keeping HAMs is to wrap them in paper, or, to sew them in coarse cloths (which should be white-washed) and bury them in a barrel of hickory ashes. The ashes must be frequently changed.

An old HAM will require longer to soak, and longer to boil than a new one.

Tonques may be cured in the above manner.

Directions for Cookery, In Its Various Branches.
Ladies and Professional Cooks.
The Whole Science and Art of Preparing Human Food. (Year 1840)