This posting is about more than offering a recipe. It is an effort to provoke new thought-lines. To offer a new horizon. I devolved the T-Shirt smoking method due to my own preferences. There were times when I only wanted to “Enhance” a item. Not to change it, to brine it or to cure it. The problem was with direct smoke contact a light bark was created. Thus the item was more than “Enhanced.” It was changed.
I’ve tried many materials that would allow the flavoring of the smoke to pass through without permitting direct contact. Most materials failed me. They either allowed to much contact, or they were a complete barrier. The material that I found that worked is the material of a white cotton T-Shirt. Not just any type of T-shirt. Only the type with full sleeves. The ones with no sleeves and a low neck line are woven differently and allow to much contact.
Thus a name was born: “Olds’ T-Shirt Ah Smokin’.”
Now on to the type of hams. I’m not talking about a fresh ham. I get mine at a supermarket. I use a full Hamilton or Smithfield Picnic Ham. They are very low in salt. They have already been cured and pre-smoke/ cooked to 150 degrees F.
If the ham has a thick skin on it I first remove that skin. Next, I place the ham into a single layer of white cotton T-Shirt material. I do not allow for the T-shirt to bunch up against the ham. I use straight pins to hold the material to the ham. (No plastic heads on the pins.)
I have both cold and hot smoked the hams in a T-Shirt. Today I prefer the Cold Smoked Method. I use oak wood, and smoke for 6-8 hours. This variable is based upon the size of the ham. At the 3-4 hour mark, I turn the ham upside down. Make sure to empty the water bowl and refill with water at that time.
Now a word about hot smoking. These type of hams have already been cooked to 150 degrees F. If you hot smoke them then you will not be able to “bake” the ham later or you will run the risk of the meat drying out. If you do hot smoke a ham I strongly suggest you do not allow your unit to get hotter than 210 degrees F.
Regardless of the method you use, hot or cold smoke the following is/ are the next step(s).
Once the smoking is done, remove the ham and allow it to cool if needed. If hot smoked remove the T-shirt. Place T-shirt in a Plastic bag if wet. Once hot ham has cooled to room temp re-wrap the ham in the T-shirt. If T-shirt is dry, take a clean spray bottle and mist it with clean water, until the T-shirt is wet but not running water out of it. If cold smoked you do not need to remove the T-shirt.
Wrap the whole ham/ T-shirt in plastic and place it into the refrigerator. Allow several days for the smoke to “cure” all the way through the ham. When ready to serve, remove ham from T-shirt and plastic wrap and “bake” ham to 170-180 degrees in the oven at an oven temp of not more than 200-210 degrees. This will take a few hours.
Note: I also dress my ham in a traditional pineapple, cherry, cloves, and raisin glaze.
- I used a Smithfield ham and removed the heavy skin.
- Wrap ham in a SINGLE layer of (white)T-shirt material. Do bunch up any excess T-shirt on the edges. Cut that off and hold T-shirt to ham using straight pin. (no plastic heads)
- Cold Smoke for 6- 8 hours.
- Around the 4th hour clean out water bowl and refill with water, and turn the ham upside down.
- After 6-8 hours of smoking you can see a light coloring from the smoke.
- Wrap ham with T-shirt in plastic and store in frig for several days. This will allow the smoke to mellow and “cure” to the bone. Then bake the ham like you would any other ham. (Note: If hot smoked remove ham from T-shirt and allow it to cool to room temperature–before you return it to the T-Shirt and warp in plastic.)
- Place ham into refrigerator for several days to all smoke to “cure” through the ham.
- Before serving, bake ham to 170-180 degrees using an oven. (Note: Try not to allow the oven temperature to exceed 210 degrees or the juices in it will boil out and leave causing your ham to start to shrink and go dry. Depending upon the temperature swing of your oven, you may have to adjust the cooking temperature.)
The reviews I have had by cold smoking and then allowing the smoke flavor to “cure” before I bake a ham have been from:
“Outstanding taste!” to “Just where did you get this great tasting ham?”
My reply has always been: “Why out in my backyard of course! Where else would I get it from?”
One final thought. If you have any ham left over, all I can say it look-out eggs: At breakfast time just fry up a little of the ham after you render out some of the fat for the grease.
The following is some general information on curing of hams you may find of useful.
COUNTRY CURED: This process is a dry salt cured, smoked product with most of the best hams being aged from 6 months to over 2 years. The raw pork legs are rubbed down with salt and sodium nitrate and placed in containers with pre-measured amounts of salt, under controlled temperatures for about a month. They are then removed to another controlled room and hung for about two weeks.
Next they are move into the smoke room where generally today hardwood sawdust is burned and the smoke is blown around the hams at 110 degrees until the hams develop a deep burgundy rich color. Generally the saw dust is a mixture of Red Oak (for coloring) and Hickory (for flavor.)
At this point the smoke flavor is only on the surface. The next step is the aging @ a temp. of 75 degrees for several months to years. Yield loss is 20-25%.
COUNTRY HAM: This is more than likely the oldest way ham is produced. It a long process of salt curing and smoking.
DRY CURING: Now dry cured hams are cured without water injection and they come in many flavors. If I remember correctly in Italy alone there are either 16 or 18 types of Dry Curing. They may or may not be smoked. Most are salt cured.
HONEY CURED: This is a wet cure done with various salts and flavorings: i.e. sufficient amounts of honey,and it may or may not be smoked.
WATER ADDED HAM: Without a doubt this is the most common ham you will find in the store. Check the label on these. Some may contain as much as 35% of body weight in water–generally the 35% percenters are boneless and package in plastic. When I worked and managed a couple of delis here these were called Cuban Ham. There was so much water added to these hams the hams looked like they were floating in water. I don’t know why they were called Cuban Hams, as I believe the Cuban people are smarter than this. My suggestion is a maximum of 10% water per weight.
WET CURED: These are fast turn around hams. Soaked or injected with curing compounds in a liquid form. The wet cure can produce a ham in a week. If injected the turn around time is about 24-30 hours. This method IMO is all but the same as WATER ADDED HAM: if not injected.