Posted 03-18-2001 at 18:12:10
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I believe it was Tim who was inquiring about smokehouse temps, and I happened on some info today that might be worth mentioning, then I'll shut up for the night (everybody breathing a sign of relief, LOL). The best slaughtering weight for a hog is from 180 to 240 pounds. Kill hogs only when the temperature is 33-35 degrees F. Do not cure a bruised ham as it will spoil. A good curing mixture is eight pounds of salt, three pounds of sugar, and three ounces of saltpeter (?I ain't touching that one, LOL). Apply the mix at the rate of one and one quarter ounces per pound of meat. Use a third of the mixture on the first day, another third on the third day, and the last third on the tenth day. Rub it in thoroughly each time.
On a ham, good salt penetration requires seven days per inch of thickness. Bacon requires from 14 to 16 days.
Add another day to the curing schedule for each day the weather is below freezing.
Then wash the outside coating of salt off and leave the meat at a temperature below 40 degrees for another 20 to 25 days for salt equalization. Then smoke the meat, if desired. Don't allow the temperature in the smokehouse to exceed 100 degrees. Use hickory, oak or apple as fuel. Smoke hams until they are amber or mahogany in color (usually about two days). Smokehouse should be sealed and ventilated with fans, or completely screened for natural ventilation.
If you smoke the meat, holes were poked in the middlin meat, white oak splits run through the holes, and the meat hung from the joists of the smokehouse. Hams and shoulders were done the same way. Then a fire was built inside the smokehouse. If it had a dirt floor, the fire could be built right on the floor. Otherwise, a wash pot was set in the middle of the room and a fire built in that. The fire itself was made of small green chips of hickory or oak, pieces of hickory bark, or even corncobs in some cases. Using this fuel, the smoke was kept billowing through the house for from two to six days, or until the meat took on the brown crust that was desired both for it's flavor, and for it's ability to keep flies and insects out of the meat.
If you intend to cure and smoke your own meats, you might want to write the Cooperative Extension Service of the College of Agriculture at the University of Georgia, and ask them for their booklet Curing Georgia Hams Country Style.
Information was obtained from The Foxfire Series.