I;ve only done 2 hams ....... and I also never really looked into it ... so I just popped it in the smoker for about 2 hours for about 2 - 3 hours on low heat ... and then wrapped in fiol and placed on a cookie sheet and finished in the oven !!! Always tured out great ... yeah , Yeah I knw its all done on the smoker .. but it still turs out great!!
All hams start out as a roast from the hind leg of a hog. This is called a fresh ham. Before it is prepared it is no different than any other pork roast. How it gets to be a ham is something of a complicated story.
Hams are prepared in several different ways. They can be aged, cured, smoked or cooked. The ham you get at the store is generally wet or brined cured. This process involves injecting the ham with a combination of salt, sugar, sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate, sodium erythorbate, sodium phosphate, potassium chloride, water and flavorings. The ham is then cooked to a temperature of 150 degrees F. The combination of the chemical brine and the cooking will kill off bacteria and make a ham.
Now aging is a different process and does not necessarily require a brine of smoke.
Hams are hung in a special room with exact temperature and humidity controls. Hams can spend as much as 5 years aging and will come out coated in a hard mold crust. Of course you scrap off and wash the ham before you eat it. It might not sound terribly appetizing but these hams can sell for a lot of money. Aging is done at about 75 degrees F to 95 degrees F at a humidity level of 55%-65% for at least 45 days. You need good air circulation to keep the surface of the meat dry to reduce mold growth.
Cold smoking is the way to smoke a ham. Cold smoking is done at temperatures under 100 degrees F and can go on for days or even weeks. Because the temperature is so low, bacteria is controlled by chemicals in the smoke and the slow drying process. A cold smoked Ham does require salt curing (typically in a brine) to keep the bacteria under control while the ham cures.
Many hams are prepared through a combination of these processes. The Smithfield Ham, which can sell for $7 to $15 a pound uses all of the above ways to preserve meat. If you want to make your own Smithfield Ham start with the hind leg of a hog raised entirely on a diet of peanuts, brine in a saltwater mixture for 1 to 2 months, smoke for a week and then let age for another 6 months. See why they cost so much?
So you can't put a fresh ham in your smoker and have it for dinner that night? Sure you can, but it won't be a ham in the way you think of ham. It would be much more like a smoked pork shoulder or southern style pulled pork.
In my younger years, when I had the time, energy and property to do it, I used to raise two hogs a year and I tried smoking my own ham. My advice is forget it and have it done by the pros. However, if you are dead set on smoking one you should search the net or, better yet, buy a book and read up on the process. If that doesn't scare you off then nothing will. In simple terms, in order to produce a better product than your local smokehouse, a 20 pound ham will take two months to cure whether you chose wet or dry curing. You need to have a dependable smoker capable of maintaining a constant temperature of 75-85 degrees for 4-5 days with about 40 hours of that with smoke, then finish it off at 225 degrees until it reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees. The end result is a ham that far exceeds anything in your local grocery store, but it is a long process. I quit doing my own and paid Butch at Stewart's meats in McKenna or Tom, Dick and Harry in Yelm to do it.
But... it is hard to beat a fresh ham, cut into about 5 pound pieces, brined overnight and smoked like you would a Boston Butt for pulled pork. It really isn't ham, it's roast pork, but it is outstanding and I don't think you will be sorry.
I would like to thank everyone for their input on creating a ham, I for one did not realize the amount of work that goes into making a true ham, Thanks Duro for doing the research to find that article it is a very informative and let me know I am not quite good enough to tackle that opperation, I like the suggestion that slowleak had for the Boston pulled pork, we picked up the meat yesterday and made some bisquits and gravy with some of the sausage last night, it is a mild sausage and was very good, stay tune the next couple of weeks I am going to try the brine and smoke treatment on a butt roast, once again thank you to all for helping me out on this one.
you can get a kit for making a ham it will do 20 pounds of meat it is from lem products it is easy to do it comes with everything you need and instructions it cost around $15.00 check it out at http://www.lemproducts.com
here is a pic of a deer ham i made a few years ago using the brown sugar ham kit