Ham is hog’s leap to immortality. But that leap takes time. From a few weeks for your basic cooked ham to up to a year or more for a truly great dry-cured, cold-smoked ham like Italian speck or German schwartzwelder schinken (Black Forest ham). Even the “fast” version of the Smokehouse Shoulder Ham I demonstrated on Project Smoke last season requires a week of curing and 24 hours of smoking.
But what if there was a ham you could cure in just 4 days and smoke in just 2 hours?
Well, there is, and it was inspired by my friend Vitaly Paley. Vitaly runs one of the top grill restaurants in North America: Imperial in Portland, Oregon. He invigorates the traditional brine with cinnamon, star anise, and fennel. Fresh orange juice and Jack Daniel’s pump up the traditional brown sugar glaze. Thanks to the lack of bones, you can slice it as easily as you would a pork loin. In fact, it starts with a pork loin, which adds a degree of speed and convenience not associated with traditional ham. I call it Ham in a Hurry, and you’ll definitely want to try it.
You’ll need to know about one special ingredient—a fast acting curing salt made by Morton called Tender Quick. It contains salt, sugar, and less than 1 percent of the curing agents sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite. It cannot be used interchangeably with pink salt. In fact, Tender Quick is white, not pink. It comes in 2-pound pouches and is available at some supermarkets (particularly in more rural areas where hunting and pickling are popular) or online.
You can even hasten the curing process by injecting the ham with the brine.
Ham in a Hurry. Easter and ham sandwiches just got a lot more interesting.