December 8th 2012 was an extremely sad day for ham.
It went something like this.
Having waited for an entire year for our pig legs to mature to something resembling Proscuitto (see Proscuitto style home part 1 and part 2 for the back story), Minnie, Jamie and their Molly, plus me, Tom and our Molly gathered to cut down our hams and feast. With beer.
We cut down the hams, unravelled the muslin and unveiled a tolerable level of maggotry. This is to be expected, especially on the outer hard layers. In the warmer months, fly lay their eggs on the muslin and these very clever and very hungry wrigglers weasel their way through the layers to the ham. Quite often, they only make it to the hard outer layer and their progress can be halted with a knife.
So, upbeat and all optimistic, we just cut off the maggoty bits.
However, we encountered more problems further in. If you’ve read the first posts you’ll know that we had our pork legs tunnel boned (to remove the bone). The cavity that is left needs to be thoroughly salted in order to prevent the ham from rotting from the inside out. All told, we thought we’d done a pretty fine job all those months ago. The ham thought differently and both legs showed evidence of rotting.
We tried to slice our way out of it but, when it came down to it, we were left with such a small portion of proscuitto that we didn’t think it worth holding on to. Plus the visuals of boring maggots and memories of Tom’s smelly finger (from when he plunged it into the rotting porky tunnel and sniffed it) kind of put us off a bit…
It didn’t stop us trying to feed it to the kids though.
My Molly turned her nose up at it and munched warily on the cucumber with suspicious eyes. Clearly a born gastronome, Minnie and Jamie’s Molly devoured a fairly decent amount of the stuff. As of 19.12.12 she’s still with us. I should say at this point that what we did slice off and sample was very very good. Enjoyed wafer thin, it had a lovely delicate flavour and would have made great vacuumed-packed presents for friends (which is what Minnie and Jamie did with theirs last year).
Both Minnie’s butcher Mr Finn and my new butcher reckon we need to hang the hams in a cold fridge. Both butchers have other suggestions for protecting the hams other than muslin too so, next time we might try an altogether different approach. The reality is, if we’d salted the inside cavity as thoroughly as we thought we had then we’d both probably have some delicious proscuitto to tuck into as the maggots weren’t the main problem. Let’s call it parma karma for not doing the job properly at the outset.
So, we are sad about ham. But we will learn. We will move on. And will try again.
Until then, it’s bog standard ham and turkey for us this year.