Friday, February 18, 2011

Curing Ham Hocks

Another on my "to-make" list that I can't seem to buy anymore with decent quality! I got the fresh hocks at Whole Foods in Winston-Salem on a recent trip through there. That particular WF carries pastured pork and grass-fed beef. The fresh hocks weighed 1¾ pounds and cost me $1.85.

Here's the hocks that I vacuum-packed for the freezer. They are thawed in this photo because I was preparing to put them in a brine cure.

Brine, based on weight of the hocks:
Meat                795 g
Salt                   35 g
Sugar                25 g
Water              330 g
Cure #1          2.5-3 g

Here they are in the brine, day one. They were kept refrigerated, and I turned them over in the brine every day for 10 days.

Here they are, finally in the cold smoker, with a piece of tongue that has a pastrami coating. I'm using sugar maple sawdust in my CSG (cold smoke generator).

Next Day:
They were smoked about 8 hours in sugar maple smoke, refrigerated overnight, and smoked another 8 hours today in apple smoke.

This is what the "cold smoke generator" aka ProQ CSG looks like while generating cold smoke. It has been burning (smoking) about 2 hours in the photo above, and you can see how much of the apple sawdust has burned. You can also see a bit of the light smoke; it would be thicker smoke if the cardboard box wasn't uncovered (and the meat rack removed) for the photo.

Here they are, along with some cured, herbed salt pork in their second 8 hour cold smoke. When they finish tonight, they will go in a baggie and be refrigerated for several to allow the smoke flavor to equalize. Then each one will be individually vacuum-packed and frozen until I want to use one. 

Another option is to roast them at 200ºF until they reach an internal temp of 150ºF before freezing, so they are technically already partially cooked when adding to a pot of beans or greens. I did that with these just to see what difference it makes in a cooked dish, if any, and later I will cure another batch, but unsmoked, for comparison.




  1. I am going to have to make me one of these smokers. I love these posts.

  2. Becky, I got the smoke generator here:

    I'm having a little more difficulty in locating inexpensive sawdust of the right size. Must be a local woodworker around here somewhere! The sawdust I bought came from here:

  3. Interested in finding out how the WF 'pastured' pork and grass fed beef is finished.

    That is the big problem around here trying to find grass finished cuz most of the critters are still grain finished which blows the higher O3 concept down the drain :-((

    P.S. Are you near Pisgah (sp?) Forest?

    Making lentil soup with [my crummy average] smoked hocks today.
    Thanks for the idea.

    Later Gator,

  4. If by WF you mean Whole Foods, I have no idea. Generally I never buy from them, but buy locally if I can. The store where I bought those hocks said they were locally sourced, not raised just for WF, for whatever that's worth. Most pastured pork is fed some grains and/or whey because they are not really grass-eaters, but rather foragers.

    Have you checked "EatWild" for local sources? I know there are several near Knox.

    Pisgah Forest is down around Asheville, 2½ hours from me.

  5. They look gorgeous! Thanks for showing us the how-to and success. I look forward to hearing how you like the flavor.

  6. Sher, I cooked a big pot of black beans and used the smallest hock slice. The taste was terrific, just the right amount of smokiness.

    However, the meat was a tad dried out right at the surface; it probably was "overcooked" in the oven while I was trying to get the internal temp of the largest up to 150ºF. I should have taken the small ones out sooner, or skipped that step totally since I was freezing them anyway.


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