The Webster County University of Missouri Extension hosted country cured ham workshops Jan. 15 and 18 for youth and adults. Prior to refrigeration, many Missourians cured hams and pork bellies as a method of preserving food.
“I think it’s an important skillset to have,” said Kyle Whittaker, County Engagement Specialist for the extension center. “We had about 140 hams cured this week… it’s a mad rush but good that people are this interested.”
Country cured hams are not cooked, but preserved with a combination of salt, sugar and other spices which preserves the meat without refrigeration. Smoke houses were a common fixture on many farms and rural homes before modern refrigeration. While the smoke houses were not used to cook the meat, they did give the preserved hams a smoke flavor.
Those in attendance were able to learn the curing process first-hand from Whittaker, who has taught students of all ages how to cure hams for nearly three decades.
The process includes curing the ham in Dec. or Jan. with a cure containing two parts salt and one part sugar. The ham then hangs for 2.5 days per pound. After the initial curing step, the ham is taken down and any cure or mold growth is removed. It’s re-wrapped and hung in another net for 2-3 months to age. After aging, the ham is cleaned and then cold smoked so it’s ready to eat.
Whittaker has taught country cured ham classes in seven counties over the last week, including Cedar, Greene, Hickory, Howell, Texas and Wright Counties. Webster County participants also have the option to enter their ham in the show at the Webster County Fair.
“Last year was the first year for the Country Cured Ham Show at the fair and we had 18 hams cured,” he explained. “This year we had 38 participants in the county, all of which can enter the competition this summer.”
Whittaker will reach back out to participants of the country cured class in Webster County in June with the offer to cold smoke their ham. Something that is only offered for Webster County curers.
“I’ll cold smoke it and even slice it for them if they want, then they’ll be ready to be picked back up in July,” he added, noting that once the ham is sliced it must be frozen.
Those who participated in the Webster County class will have the option to drop their ham back off at the extension center for exhibition at the fair.
“The extension center is always interested in learning what the people want to learn, so reach out,” he added. “We want our programming efforts to be driven by our residents.”
To contact Kyle Whittaker, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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