How to Cure a Ham

I’m going to give you the BEST words of advice EVER! If you purchase a hog, process a hog, raise a hog, CUT THE HAM IN HALF!! A whole ham weighs roughly 25-40 lbs, and goodness knows, none of us have a pan big enough to cook a ham that large. CUT THE HAM IN HALF!!

Now that you know the secret to purchasing/processing a ham, let’s look at how to make it taste like ham. If you don’t cure your ham, you’ll think you’re eating one ginormous pork chop. The curing is what makes ham taste like ham.

We’re going to pretend you paid attention to the CUT THE HAM IN HALF advice and assume you’re ham is about 12-14 lbs.

You’re going to need:

A plastic bucket large enough to submerge the ham. (I use a 5-gallon bucket. Since I’m not positive the bucket is “food grade,” I line it with a plastic garbage bag.)

2-3 gallons of water

4 cups of kosher salt

4 cups of brown sugar

1/3 cup of pink curing salt #1 (You will not find this at your average grocery store. Order it from Amazon well in advance of needing it.)

2 tablespoons of pickling spice


Warm half of the water in a pan on the stove. It doesn’t have to be boiling, just warm enough to dissolve the above salts and spices. Add the salts and spices and whisk until salt is dissolved.

Pour into the bucket.

Score the fatty side of the ham with a knife, making a diamond pattern. Place the ham in the bucket, add the remainder of the water, and submerge the ham. (Don’t overflow the bucket.) If the ham floats a bit, you can put an upside-down plate on top to weigh it down.

Either tie the bag or cover the bucket with a lid.

Place the bucket in the refrigerator for 1 day for every two pounds of meat. That would be 6-7 days for our 12-14 pound ham.

If you love your ham really salty, you are done. Simply remove from bucket and blot dry with paper towels. If you don’t care for very salty ham, remove from the brine and rinse the ham. Empty the bucket and re-fill with clean water and place the ham back in the fridge – a few hours for average-salty ham – overnight for not-too-salty ham.

Once finished, place the ham in a roasting pan with an inch of water in the bottom. Roast the ham in a 350 degree oven until the internal temperature is 130 degrees. Then raise the temperature to 425 and continue roasting until the outside is crispy and the internal temperature is 150 degrees. Total cook time should be 15 minutes per pound, or about 3 – 3 1/2 hours for our 12-14 pound ham.

If you want a glaze on your ham, add it the last 15 minutes. There are many different glazes to choose from, from plain brown sugar to pineapple, but here’s my favorite:

Mix 1/4 cup dijon mustard, 1/4 cup maple syrup, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Brush it on the ham 15 minutes before the ham is done.

Yum! Enjoy!!

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