The Pig Chronicles – Home Cured Ham


OK, I am going for it.  I put a call in to my foodie friend, Diana. I need to find a pig.  Well, actually just a part of a pig, but ideally attached to a living member of a farm community, blissfully nibbling away in an area that is kind to people and animals alike – Sonoma County, California.  Bliss and terroir are important. The pig should be happy, organically raised, and living from a local, natural diet that will impact the flavor of its meat.  I can’t dictate the nature of the geography, but my guess is that Sonoma county is not a bad place to start.

My back-up plan is to purchase a leg directly from an organic meat producer.  I had a nice chat with the man at the Prather Ranch table at the farmers’ market this morning, and he can help me out if I cannot adopt a pig.  Prather Ranch is located near Mt. Shasta, and as environments go, this is a very nice one, too. This would also sort out a dilemma I face (sorry) which is my own cowardice/hypocrisy/whatever-you-want-to-label-it: while I will happily invest in a pig’s welfare, upbringing, diet and care, I would prefer not to meet it.  It would be too difficult to face later.

So, I will own a quarter of a pig, or a leg, or however I am able to arrange it.  What I am specifically interested in is its rear end.  You see, I am after a ham, because I am determined to try and air-dry my own.  Salted, air-dried ham, or prosciutto, as I prefer to call it, is a favorite in our family diet.  We’ve been known to seek out obscure villages and towns  in our travels just to taste their air-dried ham and meat specialties. It’s also a frequent guest on my blog.  The lynchpin for me was when we visited Anna at the wonderful Villa Gioianna last month, and she showed us the hams she had air-drying in the cave of her turn of the century villa in Umbria.  Encased in salt, they had been hanging for months, while a man from the nearby village would come round weekly or so to see how they were drying and add more salt.  At that moment, I knew, I had to get my own pig.  Or at least its rear-end.

This will be a long process – up to half a year – and I will blog about it as it progresses.  My only wishes  at the outset are (1) finding a space that is consistently cool (60 F.) on our property in California  and (2) that my husband won’t be relocated.