Wild Game: Prep a Boar Ham for Curing and Smoking

For instructions on how to butcher a wild hog and isolate the ham, click here. To read the story behind … Continued

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Here’s a step-by-step guide to wet curing wild ham and prepping for smoking.
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Begin by removing the leg bone and shank bone.
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Trim away silver skin, fibrous tendons, and connective tissues. Trimming fibrous and connective tissues is an ongoing task with wild game, but it really improves flavor and texture.
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Once you have cleaned the meat to your liking, butterfly the ham.
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Make several shallow knife cuts across the meat to open up the flesh.
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Sprinkle 2-2.5 teaspoons of Knox Unflavored Gelatin evenly across the surface of the meat, The gelatin—essentially made from powdered domesticated pig bones—acts as a binding agent. This is a bit of an industry secret, but it’s how a boneless ham maintains its shape.
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Massage the gelatin into the meat to activate.
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Roll up the butterflied ham and shape into a football. Remove any remaining silver skin, or connective tissue on the outside.
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Use a 60-thread cheese cloth to cover, and work down to the bottom like a sack twisting the excess.
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Using a combination of gently pound and rolling with light pressure, pack the ham firmly into the cheese cloth forming a tight ball.
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Tie off with a butcher twine or cotton string. A surgeon’s half-knot works well, but any secure knot will be fine.
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Now we are ready to create our brine bath and inject the ham.
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For this brine, we used a juniper-infused brine. It’s a fitting recipe, since this particular hog took to hiding in cedar and juniper thickets. Here’s what you’ll need for 1 gallon of the brine, which works well for about a 5 pound boneless wild boar ham. Peppercorns
Bay leaves
Honey
Juniper berries
Brown sugar
Sodium Nitrite #1
Kosher salt
Whole cloves
1 gallon cold water (4 quarts)
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Pour 2 to 2.5 cups of water into a saucepan to make the herbal infusion (it’s basically tea) that will flavor the brine.
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Add ¾ cup kosher salt to the saucepan.
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Next, add 1 cup of loosely packed brown sugar.
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Follow up by adding 1 heaping tablespoon of juniper berries. Again, a nod to the juniper trees that are part of wild boar habitat in Texas.
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Add to the mixture 1 heaping tablespoon of peppercorns, 3-4 whole cloves
3 bay leaves, and 1 tablespoon of honey. Heat the tea to a boil and then simmer 5-10 minutes.
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While the infusion is simmering, add 1 tablespoon of pink sodium nitrite #1 to the reserved water. Nitrite makes meat less prone to bacteria and enhances color. Nitrite #1 is for fast release and short cure times. It is used in brining, smoking, and canning. Nitrite #2 is slow release and suited for dry cured meats like salami, prosciutto, etc, that require aging.
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Remove the tea from the stove and pour into the reserved water
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Draw up the brine with the brining syringe.
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Inject about 10 percent of the weight of the ham with the brining solution. So for example, if you have a 10-pound ham, inject 1 pound of solution. For a small 4 to 4.5 pound ham like this, inject in 3 to 4 different places. Bigger hams will require more injection spots.
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After injection, drop the whole ham in the solution.
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Since we are wet curing the ham, and have extra room in the container, we add a wild boar loin.
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Cover and refrigerate for 48 hours. Once the wet cure is complete, both the ham and the loin will be ready for the smoker

For instructions on how to butcher a wild hog and isolate the ham, click here. To read the story behind the hunt for this Texas hog, click here.