Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Hamlets – To Eat or Not to Eat Will Not Be a Question

I had been fantasizing for weeks about doing a whole, home-cured ham for the holidays. I always get lots of requests for this kind of thing, and was fully prepared to give it a go, but then a strange thing happened, I heard the word “Hamlet.” 

It was on TV, and completely unrelated to cured pork, but for whatever reason the word made me think of cute little, individually sized hams. That’s all it took, and off I went trying to figure out how to make this thing happen. I knew I wanted a process that wouldn’t require the pink curing salts used in commercially produced hams, not because they are unhealthy, they’re not, but because it would be hard for some of you to find.

I’ve read things in the past about using celery’s naturally occurring nitrates to accomplish the same thing, so that’s what I used, and as you’ll hear me say several times in the video, I was thrilled with the results! While not exactly like a classic city ham, this was very close. The firm, moist texture was great, the salt level was spot on, and since we used loin instead of leg, there’s even a little less fat.

I’m afraid I won’t be able to help much with questions about how to do this with bigger or different cuts, as this was my first foray into home-cured ham, so if you are going to attempt this, please go to a good butcher to get the exact same size “chops” that I used. If you do, and follow these simple steps, I think you will have a holiday meal “to die for.” Sorry, but you didn’t expect me to do this entire post without one forced reference to the play, did you? Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 Hamlets:
4 thick-cut (10-12 oz) center cut, boneless pork loin “chops”
For the brine:
1/2 cup *kosher salt plus 1 tablespoon
(*if using fine table salt, you’d only need barely 1/3 cup)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp finely ground black pepper
1 tsp allspice
1/2 ground cloves
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups boiling water to dissolve salt and sugar
3 celery stalks (about 2 cups chopped)
1/2 yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
2 cups cold water to puree vegetables in blender, plus add enough cold water to make 2 quarts total volume of brine
Brine for 48 hours before roasting

For the glaze:
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
pinch of cayenne
whole cloves as needed

Roast at 325 degrees F. until an internal temp of 145 degrees F. is reached.

View the complete recipe 


Ryanh said...

Chef John, where could I find a container like yours to brine in?

Chef John said...

Got mine at a local restaurant supply store, but easy to find online! Check "lexian"

Judy said...

Dammit Chef! Can I just come live with you? I want to eat everything you make! I will be a good guinea pig for you--you can test any recipe you want! ;)
Awesome looking ham! I bet it was fab.

Gabe Cooley said...

Any advice on making this for 10 people? Thanks and I love your Blog!

Matt D. said...

Hi Chef John, can I ask what brand of kosher salt you're using here? I recently bought a box of Diamond Crystal brand and have realized that it weighs substantially less than the Morton kosher salt I had been using. I want to avoid having an over- or under-salted brine. I don't suppose you're one of those people who weighs their salt, are you? :)

Chicau said...

Looks great!
OK to brine longer? 6day?
Only cook on weekends

Ryanh said...

Also one last question chef? Isn't ham usually smoked too? Is there a way I could smoke these hamlets? I have a smoker. Or could I incorporate the smokiness in some other way?

paula o said...

Looks yummy. My fam loves ham! Can you comment on your profile picture? What are you doing & what's up with your expression? It's cute.

Chef John said...

Ryanh, You could brine and cook in the smoker if you wanted.

Gabe, you can scale up to as many as you want! Use increase all the ing. by 2.25 times.

Chicau, 6 days too long, but never tried.

paula o, the profile picture is from a photo booth at an after party at the Aspen Food & Wine festival. No idea who the women is. :)

Unknown said...

hi chef john, u didnt write the liquid smoke on the recipe. can u write the exact amount? or is it okay to skip this? thank you.

Unknown said...

chef, u didnt write liquid smoke in the post. is it okay to skip this? thanks.

Chef John said...

Matt, I used Diamond, and no, I didn't weigh it.

James Farrand said...

Chef John, this looks delicious so I tried it! My brine separated into a dark liquid layer and a vegetable puree layer. Do you think I did something wrong?

Chef John said...

No. Sounds like you may not have blended the veg as smooth as mine, so the veg is floating. Just stir it up, but shouldn't matter as long as the meat is covered.

Cheuk Yin said...

Hi Chef John. Is it okay to use any other meats? Is chicken breast or chicken thigh better?

Cheuk Yin said...

Hi Chef John. Is it okay to use any other meats? Is chicken breast or chicken thigh better?

Chef John said...

Never tried, but needs to be pork I think.

Stephen Bernhard said...

Brining chicken is great. I typically brine chicken for at least 2 days, depending on the brine, due to the fact that chicken meat has a more impermeable membrane than other meats. If you have a smoker, then you just turned a deliciously brined piece of chicken into a masterpiece.

I just wanted to share a quick tip for brining. A clean, easy, and efficient way to brine or cure meat is in a sturdy freezer bag. This makes for easy clean up, it is cheap, and it allows the meat to be easily flipped or rearranged without actually touching the product itself. this is a big help with bacterial control (particularly if it is something which isn't being cured with a nitrite/nitrate), and facilitates a clean and easy step which is necessary is some preparations.

Don't buy bags marketed as "brining bags." These are a waste of money, for half the price, you can buy a box of every day ordinary freezer bags. I, personally, use 2.5 gallon jumbo size bag.

Once the brine is cooled, pour it into the bag. Put the chops (or whatever else) in the bag, and give a quick swish to make sure that all is well. Place the bag in a bowl to keep it upright if you prefer (I do this just to safeguard against leaks, particularly if the meat has cut bones... though I have never had one leak yet), throw it in the fridge, and you are good to go.

Sean L said...

Hi Chef John!

I put my pork in the brine this evening and then realized that we would be unable to have our hamlet dinner until the 3rd evening. Would you:

a) leave the meat in the brine for all 3 nights... or
b) remove it from the brine after 48 hours and then continue preparing as normal on the 3rd night?

Thank you for your videos and also your wonderful contributions to the rap game!

Chef John said...

Take out after 2 days and cook the next! Enjoy!

vijay chandra said...

i am from India and celery is expensive could you suggest a substitute. I googled high nitrate foods and spinach, red beetroot and lettuce came up the first two may not work with ham so, please suggest me a substitute

Bees Under My Bonnet said...

Lovely to see your celery substitute curing here. And yes, it's difficult to get pink salt aside from Amazon. Unfortunately, the shipping fee alone makes it not worth it. Love that there's a celery substitute!