A great ham maker from Tennessee once said, “You can get a manual on how to cure and age country ham…. As far as just sitting down and doing it, the difference is paying attention to details.”
It is easy for something like this to sound elliptical or insufficient as a ham recipe. How can you cure anything with the only directions being "pay attention"? We crave the formula of a recipe with its mathematical precision, prescribing the addition of ingredients and times to equal a guaranteed sum.
The fact is, if you look at your hams, if you watch them, you will know what to do. It helps that spoilage is unmistakable. You will never confuse going bad with going good when it comes to whole muscle cures, because we inhabit the same ecology as our hams.
We are not disembodied minds suspended in a foreign ecosystem. Being of the earth, like our pigs, we come ready-made with ham making prowess. The trick is not in memorizing the recipe, but in cultivating the resources we are born with.
Unfortunately, artificial food has altered our best tools in honing our tastes and undermined our confidence in the arbitration of our senses. This is why every Family Pig class is not only a three-day practicum in pig harvesting, but a three-day feast. At the end of each class, we take our meals from the pig to un-forget our native sagacity as meat curers, remembering with our mouths.
Miraculously, feasting thus becomes a form of self-discipline, a nice little trick making the best case for a benevolent universe in the estimation of
Feast of St. Crispin