My intention was to hedge my bets and plump for around 21 days. After 3 weeks, fluid was still being drawn out of the meat and so I decided to leave the ham curing for a little longer. During the final week of curing I removed the plastic wrap. This allowed me, as far as my little fridge allowed, to prop the ham at different angles so that I could get salt onto the ‘awkward’ surfaces.
Having cured the ham for a month it’s now time to move on to the next stage. The Crinella Family recommends pressing the ham under a heavy weight for a few days. I imagine that this is to squeeze out any remaining fluid.
I put the ham into a vegetable rack with a bowl beneath to catch the drips and then had to improvise a weight. I filled a 5 litre plastic container with water and balanced that on top of the ham. I then covered it all over with cloths to keep off the flies.
The next problem was where to put the meat for the next stage. The ham needs to be kept in a cool, airy place (I did read somewhere that the ideal temperature is around 18C/65F). The garage would be a suitable place when the ham is ready to be hung (we don’t keep a car in there so no problem with fume contamination) but as it’s crammed full of boxes, garden tools and bikes there is no room for my Heath Robinson ham press. The little utility room, being on the north side of the house, is generally cool but it does get quite warm when the various appliances are in use. The third coolest spot is the back bedroom although it does get the morning sun (when there is any that is!). I spent some time investigating how to use open windows and a fan to cool a room down. In a nutshell:
- keep windows and shutters/blinds/curtains closed on the side of the house in sun
- open the windows on the side of the house in shade
- position the fan in front of an open window pointing into the room to draw cooler air in
- as the sun moves around the house open and close the windows appropriately
I experimented with this in the back bedroom and it did cool it down to around 19C which was a lot cooler than the rest of the house. So I have decided to keep the ham in there for the next week or so.