• Yearling

    Hey, I have been doing a lot of reading lately through some of the cured ham threads on here. I’ve been getting more and more confused on the what the proper ham pump percentage is. The way that I cure my bone-in hams is by mixing up a brine, pumping to 20%, then tumbling in a large vacuum tumbler. I’ve been seeing more and more comments about only pumping hams to 10%. I’ve always done 20% because that’s what I was taught to do in college when I went through the meat science program. For the commercial processors on here what is your preferred method?

  • Power User Regular Contributors Smoker Build Expert Bowl Choppers Nebraska Veteran Team Camo

    Sorry I can’t give you a definitive answer but here are a couple of observations.

    Some of the differences you see here can be explained by the different requirements of commercial producers versus hobbyists.

    Commercial operations are driven by profits and adding extra water to the meat is one way to increase profits. Contrast that to hobbyist who are more interested in flavor and quality. So you may see a hobbyist making hams by dry curing which uses no added water at all, or brine curing methods that use less water.

    As far as the end result is concerned, the ham is still cured with proper amounts of salt, nitrite, and sugar using either method,
    but with more or less added water depending on the method used.

  • Team Blue Cast Iron Sous Vide Canning Dry Cured Sausage Masterbuilt Military Veterans Power User Regular Contributors

  • Team Blue Cast Iron Sous Vide Canning Dry Cured Sausage Masterbuilt Military Veterans Power User Regular Contributors

    Brine solution
    Make sure you don’t brine meats that have already been brined, such as supermarket stocked pork, which has been treated with sodium phosphate and water to make it juicier.
    40-50% of 100% meat
    4lbs brine to 10lbs butts
    When adding ingredients to brine, the basic rule is to add ingredients that readily dissolve in water (phosphates, salt, sugar) first and then those that disperse (starch, carrageenan).

    1. Add phosphates to water and dissolve.
    2. Add sugars, soy proteins and dissolve.
    3. Add salt and dissolve.
    4. Add sodium nitrite and dissolve.
    5. Add cure accelerator (sodium erythorbate) and dissolve.
    6. Add starch and carrageenan.
    7. Meat Brine Strength in Degrees Time of Curing
      Poultry 21 overnight
      Bacon 50 - 65 1½ - 2 days per pound
      Spareribs 50 - 55 1 week
      Loins 55 - 65 2 weeks
      Ham, shoulders 65 - 75 4 days per pound
      Fish 80 2 hours

    If meat were stitch pumped with pickle first, these times would be shortened in half. Notice that sugar, though often added to brine after it is made, does not participate in the calculation for making a brine of a particular strength. That is due to the following reasons:
    • A lot of brines do not call for sugar at all.
    • A lot of brines call for different amounts of sugar (more sugar for bacon, less sugar for ham).
    • People use different sugars, dextrose, maple syrup or honey.

    Based on those findings we can come up with the general formula for 60º SAL brine:
    water 1 gal. (8.33lbs.) 3.80 kg
    salt 1.32 lbs. 600 g
    Cure #1 4.2 oz. 120 g
    sugar 1.5 oz. 42 g
    If you need stronger or weaker brine change the amount of salt according to the salt tables. The amount of Cure #1 should remain the same.

    How Long to Brine
    Brine curing is slower than dry curing as you can add only about 26% of salt to water before the solution becomes saturated (100° SAL). Adding more salt will only cause it to settle down on the bottom of the container. On the other hand dry mix consists of 100% salt, although it may contain some sugar and other ingredients in small quantities. For this reason dry salting is the fastest curing method as the more salt in a curing solution, the faster the curing process. The disadvantage of dry curing is that the drawn out moisture is not replaced so the yield of the dry cured products is smaller. Curing time estimates for the traditional wet cure method (brine strength 50–65 degrees) are as follows:
    • 11 days per inch of thickness of the meat.
    • About 3 ½ to 4 days per pound for 20 lbs. hams and picnics.
    • 3 days per pound for smaller cuts.
    Those curing times were practiced in the past when preservation was the main concern. In today’s era these times may be shortened by 1 day per pound, i.e. a 15 pound ham will be cured for 45 days. Curing times may be further reduced if brine curing is preceded by stitch pumping.

    To shorten the curing time in half, the meat is pumped with 10% pump and then immersed in the same solution. At home a good practice will be to pump meat with 7% pump and then immerse it in the remaining curing solution. At the end of curing the ham should gain about 7% in weight.

    Rinsing and Drying
    After meat is taken from dry cure or brine, it must be rinsed and washed in cold water. A good idea is to soak meat for 2 hours under running water. Smaller pieces may be soaked for 30 minutes only. If a soaking container is used, water should be changed every 30 minutes. Soaking removes some of the salt which is concentrated in the outside area. After that the ham is hung for 12-24 hours to dry.

    Products like country hams must be cold smoked but the majority of products are smoked with hot smoke and then cooked inside of the smokehouse. It is a good idea to hold products at 110-115° F (44 - 46° C) without applying smoke for 30-60 minutes to dry the surface. The vents should be fully opened to allow for moisture removal. Then the vent is readjusted to 1/4 open position and hot smoke is introduced. It should be noted that in today’s era smoke is applied to flavor meat only and it can be stopped at any time as long as we continue to cook the product to the FSIS recommended temperature. Generally hams are hot smoked between 3 and 5 hours. It is a good idea to keep on raising the smoking temperature as the process continues in order to shorten cooking time.
    Cooked hams like all other cooked meats and sausages are showered with cold water to bring the temperature down. In the case of a large ham the showering may continue for 30 minutes or longer.
    Or smoked until internal temperature of 135-137 then finished in 170 water until internal temperature of 147 for whole cut meat and 160 for ground meat all types, excludes Poultry.

  • Military Veterans Sous Vide Canning Traeger Power User Arizona Dry Cured Sausage

    mrobisr great info, I enjoyed. I’m not a big maker of ham, but the brine info is useful for many items. Thx!

  • Team Orange

    I have had the same question running through my mind a lot. The one thing I come up with is it all related to the strength of your brine. So there is no one percentage for all brines. That being said I go by the instructions on the brine and keep a record of what I did and how it came out and make adjustment in the future if I feel it is needed.

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