This ham, really a smoked and grill-roasted leg of pork, makes a stunning presentation -- a real showstopper. Rubbing vinegar on the ham's skin makes it get extra crispy and dark from the smoking process. Reduced apple juice in the drip pan turns into a rich jus, dark like coffee. It beautifully complements the ham's bold pork flavor.
For this recipe, use a heritage-breed pig known for its lavish fat, such as Mulefoot or Berkshire (Kurobuta). Do not use factory-raised pork that you find in a grocery store; it won't have enough fat in it.
You'll need 4 large chunks of hickory wood for the grill, a remote thermometer and 2 large brining bags.
Make Ahead: Give yourself time to make this ham. It's best if it brines for 24 hours and then dries in the refrigerator for an additional 12 hours. It is best to brine it at night, then start drying it overnight the next day or night. Then it's ready to smoke the following day. (In other words, start 2 days ahead of time.) The apple juice reduction can be made a day or two in advance.
- For the brine and ham
- 5 large stems rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 medium cloves garlic, crushed
- 10 whole black peppercorns
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 8 quarts water, or as needed
- 10-pound heritage pork ham shank, such as Mulefoot or Berkshire, skin-on (see headnote and related sidebar)
- For the ham and jus
- 8 cups unsweetened apple juice
- 1/2 bunch thyme
- 5 large stems rosemary
- 1 large bay leaf
- 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
- 10 black peppercorns
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons homemade or store-bought barbecue rub
- 1/2 cup water, or as needed
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the brine and ham: Line a stockpot large enough to hold the ham (with some room left over) with two large brining bags, one inside the other. Twist the rosemary stems in your hand to release their oils then add them to the pot along with the bay leaves, garlic and peppercorns.
Combine the salt and sugar with some of the water in a large liquid measuring cup, stirring until they have just about dissolved, then add the mixture to the pot. Place the ham in the pot, then add enough of the remaining water to submerge the ham completely. Tie the inside bag closed, pressing out as much air as possible. Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
Place a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Discard the brine. Transfer the ham to the rack, then use paper towels to thoroughly dry the ham. Refrigerate uncovered for 6 to 12 hours.
For the ham and jus: Bring the apple juice to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat; cook uncovered for about 1 hour, or until it has reduced to 2 cups. Transfer to a heatproof bowl, then add the thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, garlic and peppercorns. Allow to cool, or cover and refrigerate if not using until much later.
Remove any skin from the underside of the ham. Brush the remaining skin with some of the vinegar. With the shank of the ham facing away from you and using a sharp knife, score the entire surface of the ham’s skin in a cross-hatch pattern: Hold the knife at a 45-degree angle with the blade facing right and slice through the skin in lines at one-inch intervals. Repeat the process in the other direction by holding the knife at a 45-degree angle facing left. Cut through the skin and some of the fat, but do not cut into the flesh.
Brush the skin with vinegar again. Let the ham come to room temperature for at least 1 hour. Use your fingers to coat any exposed flesh on the side and bottom of the ham with the barbecue rub. Brush the skin with the remaining vinegar.
Reheat the apple juice reduction and keep it warm.
When ready to cook, prepare a charcoal grill with a hinged grate for indirect grilling: Light the charcoal in a chimney starter and let the briquettes burn until the flames subside and a light layer of ash covers the briquettes (20 to 25 minutes). Dump the lighted coals into 2 mounds (or, preferably, into 2 half-moon-shape briquette baskets) on opposite sides of the grill. Place a drip pan between the piles of coals and fill it with the warm apple jus and herbs. Place 2 chunks of hickory wood on each pile of coals.
Place the hinged grate on the grill. Place the ham, skin side up, over the drip pan, parallel to and in between the coal baskets. Thread the remote thermometer probe through the top of the roast and into its center, making sure that the probe does not touch the bone. Set the thermometer to 150 degrees according to the manufacturer's directions.
Cover the grill, leaving the top vents open.
The grill will reach around 350 to 375 degrees, then start to subside. After an hour, use long tongs to nestle seven or eight coals into each pile of embers and return the lid to the grill. Cook the roast until it reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours total.
When the ham is ready, transfer it to a platter, cover it loosely with aluminum foil and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
Strain the liquid from the drip pan into a fat separator cup, discarding any solids. Pour the drippings into a sauceboat. There will be about 1 cup of rich, dark liquid the color of coffee. It will be concentrated, so add up to 1/2 cup of the water, if desired. Taste, and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Reserve the smoked pork fat (it freezes well) and use it for sauteing savory foods, as you would butter. The yield will be about 3 1/2 cups.
Transfer the ham to a cutting board, adding any accumulated platter drippings to the jus. (The total yield of jus should be about 1 1/4 cups.) Remove the cracklings from the area where you are going to carve (they will have popped all over the ham in diamond shapes) and use them to garnish the platter. They will look burnt from the smoking process, but they aren't. Cut the ham into thin slices. Serve with the apple jus and some of the cracklings.
NOTE: If using a gas grill with two burners, set one burner to medium-low and leave the other unlit; for three or more burners, set the outside or front and rear burners to medium-low and leave the center burners unlit. Put the wood in a smoker box.
From Sourced columnist David Hagedorn.
Tested by David Hagedorn.
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