We had to shut down at Maldonado Bistro during the Covid-19 pandemic. While our dining service was dormant, we did our best to utilise the kitchen quarantine. We re-organised our fridges and freezers. We preserved and cured.
With extra refrigeration space in our dessert section, we dedicated some time and space to cure some local pork loin and make our own cured ham. Who doesn’t love cured ham? Be it Italian prosciutto or Spanish jamón, it is quite magical how a piece of dry-aged pork can become so nutty, briny and elegant.
The Maltese Like It Lean
In Malta we are fortunate to have access to good quality local pigs. Pork is something we rarely import in Malta. There is a well-organised cooperative that makes sure the needs of the market are taken care of.
Breeders prefer raising leaner pigs to cater for the wishes of local customers. The Maltese prefer lean meat. They don’t like to see fat on beef or pork. Lean pork makes it ideal to make cured ham.
But then fellow gourmets like ourselves would argue that fat is what develops character and flavour. Hence we would like to see some variety at the Maltese butcher with breeds with more fat layers. This would be ideal to make some cured salami, cheek bacon (guanciale) and cured fat back (lardo).
All you need is time and patience
The method below is quite simple. All you need is a little bit of time, patience and refrigeration space. We had plenty of time and fridge space during the quarantine. Patience… not a strength of us Maltese so we will leave that story for another day.
IMPORTANT: Make sure to take out the joint bone before curing because it can be quite inconvenient to take out afterwards.
Home-made Cured Ham
- Food Processor
- 5 litre Bucket with lid
- Butcher's String
- Meat Hook
- 1 whole Chump End Pork Loin (deboned)
- 3 kg Fine Salt (enough to cover pork in bucket)
- 1 tbsp Juniper Berries
- 1 tbsp Coriander Seeds
- 1 tbsp Fennel Seeds
- 1 tbsp Black Peppercorns
- 1 tbsp Red Peppercorns
- 1 tbsp Green Peppercorns
- 2 sprigs Rosemary (fresh)
- 6 sprigs Thyme (fresh)
- First toast the coriander and fennel seeds. Then with the rest of the aromatics, roughly crush in a food processor.
- Tightly tie up your meat with butcher's string and rub the aromatics on all surface of the pork.
- Put some salt at the bottom of the bucket. Then lower the pork in the centre of the bucket and cover with the remaining salt. Put on lid and refrigerate for 3 days for every 1kg of meat. The piece we had was around 2.5kg so we salted it for 8 days.
- After one to two days you will notice the salt at the bottom of the bucket to be very wet. Therefore every second day take the pork and salt out of the bucket. With clean hands, mix the salt around and re-set the bucket but this time placing the pork the opposite side down. Repeat every 2 days.
- Once the salt brining process is ready, remove the pork from the salt and dust clean of any remaining salt. Lightly rinse the pork with some cold water.Then with a butcher's hook, hang the pork in a fridge for 2 months. It is essential that nothing makes contact with the pork within the fridge to prevent any cross-contamination.
- After 2 months of dry-aging in the fridge you can remove the butcher's string and slice to serve. Wrap with cling film and store within an air-tight container.