How to Cure Ham

Three Methods:Mix the Curing IngredientsAdd the Curing Mix to the HamComplete the Curing Process and Age the Ham

Curing a ham gives it extra flavor, color, and aroma. The primary ingredients include salt and sugar, followed by saltpeter, which is a potassium nitrate preservative used in curing and pickling processes. Other seasonings that you may use to cure ham include black and red pepper and cloves. Cure ham during the cold weather, such as December and January (or June and July in the Southern Hemisphere) to ensure freshness and flavor.

Method 1
Mix the Curing Ingredients

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    Mix 2 pounds (0.9 kg) of non-iodized salt and 1 pound (0.4 kg) of white or brown sugar in a bowl. The sugar will offset the salty flavor.
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    Add approximately 1 ounce (28 g) of saltpeter to help preserve the curing flavor. Blend the saltpeter, salt, and sugar.
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    Combine 8 tablespoons (118 ml) of brown sugar, 2 cups (1.8 metric cups) of salt, 2 tablespoons (29 ml) of red pepper, 4 tablespoons (59 ml) of black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon (2.4 ml) of saltpeter if you want to use an alternative recipe. Mix all the ingredients before applying them to the ham.

Method 2
Add the Curing Mix to the Ham

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    Open the hock-end portion of the ham. Add at least 3 tablespoons (44 ml) of curing mix inside the ham to cover the middle joint.
    • Applying the cure inside the ham prevents the bone from spoiling.
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    Cover the skin of the ham with the curing mix, then cover the lean cuts of the ham.
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    Place the cured ham in wrapping paper. Cover the wrapping paper tightly to keep the cure mixture on the ham.
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    Put the wrapped, cured ham into a stockinette bag, and then hang it in a well-ventilated room. Let the ham cure 2.5 to 3 days per pound of ham. Depending on the size, ham needs up to 40 days of cold weather for curing to prevent it from spoiling.

Method 3
Complete the Curing Process and Age the Ham

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    After 3 days of curing, remove the wrapping paper from the ham. Remove any mold and excess curing mix from the ham by using a cloth and some vinegar.
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    Blot the ham dry with the cloth, and cover it with vegetable oil, which will keep mold growth at bay. The curing process should completely cure the ham by the beginning of April.
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    Re-wrap the ham to prepare it for aging. Place it in a stockinette and let it hang in the same well-ventilated area where you cured it. Age the ham for 3 to 6 months so it achieves more flavor.


  • If you prefer, you may also smoke the ham after the curing process. Do this by unwrapping the ham, using a stiff brush to remove the cure mix and mold, and rinsing with cold water. Smoke the ham at a temperature of no hotter than 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius), using sawdust, or hardwood. Prepare the ham for aging afterward.
  • Cook the ham after the aging process. Again, remove the excess curing mix and mold, then fry or bake the ham.


  • Never wrap the ham in plastic or wax paper for curing. Both trap moisture and promote bad mold growth. Avoid storing the ham in a cellar or basement for the same reason.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 pounds (0.9 kg) non-iodized salt
  • 1 pound (0.4 kg) white or brown sugar
  • 1 large bowl
  • 1 ounce (28 g) saltpeter preservative
  • 8 tablespoons (118 ml) brown sugar (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons (29 ml) red pepper (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons (59 ml) black pepper (optional)
  • Ham
  • Wrapping paper
  • Stockinette bag
  • Cloth
  • Vinegar
  • Vegetable oil

Article Info

Categories: Food Preparation