It has always been an Easter dinner tradition for us to bake up a large ham. We would generally invite all of the family that lived nearby to come over and each family member would bring a salad or a green bean casserole or some dessert. In Mary’s family they always served up pickled beets with pickled hard boiled eggs and I always liked to barbecue up a few brats or polish sausage to go along with the ham.
Alas, since coming to Ecuador we have had to forgo the large family get-togethers and we almost never eat ham (jamon) here in Ecuador. The simple reason for that is that hams are not generally available here and when they are available around Christmas they are extremely expensive since they are imported.
Well – what do we expats do when we can not find something in the local markets? We do some research on the trusty Google and make our own.
Mary found instructions and YouTube videos teaching beginners how to cure, glaze and smoke hams. Over the last few months we have collected the ingredients needed to prepare the brine and we tried out some smaller projects with corned beef to see how the process worked. Then a couple of weeks ago we took a trip to Portoviejo and located a fourteen pound bone in half leg of pork that looked like it would make a nice cured ham.
We now had the meat, but what about the family gathering? We have no family close enough to drop in for a meal, so we invited seven people to join us for our Easter dinner. To ratchet up the stress levels a bit, Mary also decided to prepare brand new recipes for pickled beets and eggs, almond green beans, and two different types of cheese cake. In addition to the Easter dinner, Mary had some requests come in for more of her holiday candy and, although she had determined not to take orders for candy this Easter, she relented and ended up making candy for two days before the weekend.
For days we were busy making appetizers, pickled beets and eggs, coleslaw, guacamole, scalloped potatoes, various dips and sauces and the special cheesecakes. Our kitchen looked like a production line for several days!
According to the video it takes a day in the brine for each two pounds of raw meat, so a little over a week ago Mary prepared the brine and I helped her position the trimmed leg of pork in the sealed bag. We had to rearrange the shelves in our refrigerator to provide room for the curing ham. After a week of praying and hoping that all was well we prepared to take the (hopefully) cured meat from the fridge.
Mary inspected the ham as we removed if from the bag.
We rinsed off the remaining spices and (thank goodness) it certainly looked like ham!
While Mary prepared a special pineapple glaze to be applied later, the next step of converting this pork into ham fell to me. I had already started the fire in the barbecue and had the temperature set to a steady 240 degrees. The video told us to smoke the ham at 240 degrees for two hours. I had some apricot wood chips and used them to slow smoke the ham. After two hours the ham looked like this.
Now it was time to put the ham into an aluminum basin and apply the first coat of glaze.
My friends from Minnesota and Wisconsin undoubtedly noticed some smoking brats secreted in behind the ham tin. I worked the temperature up to a steady 300 degrees and cooked the ham for about three and a half more hours (5 and 1/2 total time) to get the internal temperature up to 160 degrees.
Meanwhile our guests arrived and the ham obligingly reached the targeted heat just twenty minutes before we were prepared to sit down to eat!
What do you think?
It looked like a ham. It smelled like a ham. And, oh man, let me tell you it tasted like a delicious – juicy – fruit wood smoked – pineapple glazed – perfectly cured – gift from heaven!
Mary is a wonderful cook and even with untested recipes, everything turned out perfectly! And the old man managed to do his small part at the grill to make sure that…
Life was especially good at our Easter dinner here in Ecuador!