Honey Loin Hams

Honey Loin Ham at oldfatguy.ca

Is there anything better than family? My brother has bought me great cuts of beef from Alberta. My niece and her husband keep bees and gave me great honey.  I owe them both. Then, whole pork loins came on sale! I decided to buy a couple of loins and make them some various cuts of cured pork, including Honey Loin Hams made with the honey I was given.

I started by cutting the thickest end of each loin into a chunk that weighted about 1 kilogram (2 pounds). I cut the narrow end off and saved it for future sausage. The long cylinders in the middle would be for back (Canadian to my American readers) bacon. I will do that in a subsequent post. I trimmed the thickest layers of fat off the loin pieces and put them with the narrow tips to go into the future sausage.

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The rest of this recipe just uses the large pieces I cut for the hams.

I will start with some basics of making  bacon. You have to use curing salts to make bacon. Curing salts are a mixture of salt and sodium nitrite.

The curing salts inhibit bacterial growth during the long smoking process. If you cold smoke meat for hours without curing, it will go bad.

The curing salts also give bacon its distinctive colour and taste.

Curing salts go by many names, Instacure #1, Prague Powder #1, Pink Salt and many more.  Just make sure it is 6.25% sodium nitrite and the rest is salt.

The problem is that too little curing salt will not protect the meat and too much can make you sick. It is imperative you use the right amount.

There are two ways of introducing curing salts. One is a dry rub and the other is a brine where they are mixed with water. I prefer the dry rub for bacon and the brine for hams. I will be using the brine method here.

I have found using the total weight of the water in the brine and the meat being cured to determine the other ingredients in the brine gives the best cure and most consistent flavour.

I would like to strongly recommend you get a small scale to measure the curing salts by weight. It is just more accurate and you will get a better result.

Not all ham is smoked. Several European countries have a tradition of making bacon without smoking. So, if you don’t have a smoker, you could still make this ham by not going through the smoking process. After rinsing the cure off the ham and soaking it, just put it in a 180 F oven until the internal temperature is 140 F. It is delicious but quite different without the smoky taste.

Also, if you don’t have a cold smoke generator, you can skip the cold smoke and just hot smoke it in a smoker. It will be delicious but will have less smoke taste.

Let’s get started.

I put a non reactive (stainless steel, enameled, glass or food grade plastic) container on my scale and set the tare button to weigh just the water and pork I would be putting into it. If you don’t have a tare button, weigh the container and write down how much it weighs.

I put both pork pieces in the pot and added enough water to cover them well. I noted the weight of the water and pork at 4.94 kilograms. If you don’t have a tare button, weigh the container, water and pork and subtract the weight of the container to get the weight of just the pork and water.

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Now you have to determine the amount of ingredients to add to the brine. Take the pork pieces out and set them aside.

For each kilogram of water and pork, you will add the following to the water:

  • 3 grams Prague Powder #1
  • 40 ml brown sugar
  • 40 ml honey
  • 15 ml kosher salt

For my metrically challenged friends, you would add the following for each pound of water and pork:

  • 0.048 ounce Prague Powder #1
  • 1 1/4 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/3 teaspoon kosher salt

I multiplied the ingredient amounts by 4.94 and mixed the ingredients into the brine.

For each kilogram (2 pounds) of the pork, put 50 ml (1/4 cup) of the brine and 25 ml (2 tablespoons) of honey in a container and mix them. Using a meat injector, inject this mixture into each piece of pork about every inch.

Put the pork pieces back into the brine and put a plate on top to keep them submerged.

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The meat has to sit in the brine for several days to cure. The thicker the piece of pork, the longer it has to marinate. If a piece of meat is over 3 inches at the thickest point, do not use this method, it will take too long to cure.

The formula for determining how long to marinate the meat I use is the thickness of the pork at the thickest point in inches times four plus two to get the number of days. My pork was 2 1/2 inches thick. 2 1/2 times 4 plus 2 gave me 12 days.

I put the pork in the fridge for 12 days, turning the pork in the brine daily.

After the twelve days, I rinsed the pork and soaked it in cold water for 40 minutes, changing the water once. Then, I dried the pork with a paper towel.

I like to tie my pork loin hams as it gives them a rounder more ham like shape. I just tied cotton butcher string around the pork every couple of inches.

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It is important the hams are dry or they won’t take the smoke well. To do this, I put them in the fridge, uncovered, on a rack, overnight.

The next day, I put my A-Maze-N tube smoker in my Louisiana Grills Pellet Smoker but did not turn the pellet grill on. I filled the tube smoker with hickory pellets and lit it up. I let the hams cold smoke for 6 hours with just the tube smoker going.

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I put the hams back in the fridge overnight.

The next day, I preheated my pellet smoker to 200 F using hickory pellets and hot smoked the hams to an internal temperature of 150 F. The hams need to be fully cooked so they can be sliced for sandwich meat or other cold servings.

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I covered the hams and let them sit in the fridge for two days.

I cut them in half so they would be about one pound pieces as this lets people take a smaller amount of their freezer if they are storing them. The fact I wanted a taste for quality control before giving it to my family had nothing to do with it.

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The Verdict

These are so good! They aren’t the wonderful fatty slices of ham you get of a traditional ham shank but they are low in fat. They have a great ham flavour and the honey gives it a wonderful kiss of sweet. This is great sliced thin on a sandwich or cut thick and fried for breakfast.

The Old Fat Guy

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