We are well into the first month of Operation: Freezer Clean Out and this foray into unsmoked ham uses a sirloin cut from a fresh ham so old that the remainder of the leg is mere weeks away from being aged one year. While the sirloin sat in a deep freeze, ideas for this simple ham came from butcher Rob Levitt and the cure came from an idea spurred by a single tweet from forager Jeffrey Stoneberger regarding using pine in a dry cure.
Once the sirloin had thawed, it was dredged in a cure containing salt, sugar, pink salt, pine, juniper, and black pepper and was put up for a week to cure. The sirloin was then rinsed, dried, and left to rest overnight uncovered in the fridge.
Now that the sirloin was cured and the excess moisture had dried from the exterior, I took a left where I usually take a right. Instead of smoking the ham, I roasted it in a very low oven for hours. To me, this made sense from a temperature perspective. It was almost identical to what a hot smoked ham goes through. However, without the application of the smoke, the ingredients in the cure and great pork-iness were allowed to be the focus.
I was unsure of how it would turn out through. I had never done this, but after pulling the sirloin from the oven and pressing it under a few cast iron skillets overnight, I sliced into the ham for a little breakfast treat. It looked like ham, if only a little fattier due to it being the sirloin. A quick turn in the skillet released the aroma from the cure ingredients. You could smell the pine, but the juniper and black pepper were more prominent.
Being so used to country ham, this ham seemed quaint by comparison, but the subtlety is part of the beauty. The other beautiful aspect is that you can this with little to no equipment and with very little effort. For anyone looking for an easy start into meat curing, this seems to be a gateway project.
Juniper & Pine Cured Sirloin Ham
- 45 grams kosher salt
- 23 grams sugar
- 2 tablespoons pine needles
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 5 juniper berries
- 1 teaspoon pink salt
- 3 pound pork sirloin
Step one: Combine pine needles, pepper, and juniper berries in a mortar and pestle. Pound until you no longer hold any anger internally. Add salts and sugar.
Step two: Rub sirloin with cure until fully coated. Let cure in a non-reactive container for 7 days in the fridge, turning daily.
Step three: Rinse sirloin thoroughly and dry with paper towels. Chill on a cooling rack in the fridge overnight.
Step four: Preheat oven to 170 degrees. Roast in low oven for 4 hours. Remove from oven and weigh down overnight while chilled.