How to make ham cotto ham

Make ham yourself - the complete guide

In this post I'll show you how you can make ham yourself. Raw ham is incredibly versatile and delicious.

Ham making is challenging because you are working with raw meat. But with the right help, you can do it easily.

So that you can make the ham as best as possible, I have in this article all the necessary information written together for ham production.

This post is an excerpt from my ham book. If you want to know everything about ham production + 28 other ham recipes, then it is worth taking a look at the book.

Of course, you will also find a few ham recipes and an explanatory video in this post.

Have fun and good luck copying!

Make ham yourself - that's what you need for it

Ingredients for 1 kg of ham

I recommend starting with pieces between 500 g and 750 g at the beginning.

This has the advantage that if something should go wrong, you don't have to throw away as much. In addition, drying and curing of smaller pieces is much easier.

The piece for your first ham can come from the bottom of the pork. Preferably with fat and rind.

Spices per KG of meat

  • 30 g nitrite curing salt
  • 2 g cane sugar
  • 2 g of dextrose
  • 2 g black pepper
  • 1 g coriander
  • 1 g of garlic powder
  • 1 g allspice

You need this equipment:

Spice mill / mortar

The best way to grind your spices is using a spice grinder. Alternatively, a mortar is also suitable. Or you can use spices that have already been ground. I recommend you grind them yourself.

Smoker (optional)

You need the smoker to be able to smoke your ham. This process is optional. You can also air-dry the ham without smoking it.

Smoker snail and incense flour(Optional) 

The smoker burns for about 12 hours. This saves you having to constantly refill the smoking flour.

If you want to know which other equipment I recommend, click here.

Make ham yourself - step-by-step instructions

1. Take your piece of meat and clean it of all sinews, fibers, and silver skins. Also make sure that there are no large pockets. The meat should be clean and without nicks.

2. Weigh the pared piece of meat and now measure the amount of nitrite curing salt and the spices

3. Now massage the meat with the spice mixture. Make sure all sides are nicely covered.

4. Now put the meat in a vacuum bag.

Important: Put all the remains of the spice mixture that are still in the bowl / on the board in the vacuum bag. Since we have weighed the spices and the salt, everything should really be in the bag.

5. You can then vacuum seal the meat.

6. Now the meat has to be salted in the refrigerator. Put it in the refrigerator for 10.5 days and turn it once a day.

The 10.5 days are calculated from the following curing time: approx. 1.5 days of curing per cm of meat thickness. A piece in this weight class is approx. 7 cm thick. -> 7 * 1.5 = 10.5 days. So you are on the safe side.

7. After the curing time, rinse the meat with cold water. The goal is to wash the spices off the meat.

8. Now pat the meat dry with a kitchen towel. Then insert a hook into the cured piece of meat. This allows you to hang it up better afterwards. Alternatively, you can tie the ham with a kitchen thread and hang it on it.

9. Let the cured ham burn / dry off in a cool cellar or on a rack in the refrigerator for about 3.5 days.

The “burn through time” is calculated based on the curing time. 7 days of curing divided by 2 = 3.5. So if you cure it longer, the time will adjust.

10. OPTIONAL: You can now hang the ham in the smoker and smoke it cold for 5 times *. The temperature in the smoker should ideally be between 15 and 20 degrees.

* One pass means 12 hours of smoke and 12 hours of no smoke.

The number of passes depends, of course, on your preferences. Two runs are enough for a mildly smoked ham.

11. Your ham is now actually ready 😄. You can eat it right away. My recommendation is to let it ripen a little longer. Let the ham ripen in a cool cellar for a few more weeks. Depending on how tight you want it, you can vary the time.

12. Your ham is ready. Enjoy it for you.

Make ham yourself - the production explained in detail

In the production of raw ham you have to do with the preservation of raw meat. Therefore, there are a few special points that need to be considered.

As you probably know, if left untreated, raw meat will get rotten, even in the refrigerator, after a while. This is something we absolutely want to prevent.

More precisely, if handled improperly, bacteria will form, which in the worst case scenario (Botulism) can even be life-threatening.

But before you think that we are fighting bacteria, I have to tell you that they can also help us with the production of ham.

The right bacteria make the meat tender and ensure an intense, good taste.

So what we actually want is to contain UNWANTED bacteria and promote desired bacteria.

The core rules to achieve this are:

  1. Clean working to rule out unwanted bacterial contamination
  2. Limit the growth of bacteria by using salt
  3. Slow down the growth of bacteria by cooling
  4. Kill unwanted bacteria with nitrite
  5. Stop long-term growth by drying out the meat

With these five rules we contain the unwanted bacteria as best as possible.

We also try to encourage good bacteria by giving them something to eat. Namely sugar / dextrose.

The individual steps to an excellent ham are as follows ...

Step # 0: Parry

This step is hardly or not at all illuminated in many recipes, but it is an important basis for avoiding incorrect production and obtaining a handsome ham.

When you order pieces of meat from your butcher, they often still have silver skins and tendons on them that you have to remove before processing.

The reason for this is obvious: Nobody wants to eat something solid, unappetising later on. It is best to use a short, sharp knife and carefully remove the disruptive factors.

In addition to the silver skins and sinews, the piece of meat can also have hanging bits of meat or meat pockets.

You can also remove these with a knife. The piece of meat should look as smooth and uniform as possible at the end.

If you do not do this, bacteria can multiply here due to the larger surface and hidden pockets and lead to spoilage.

Again, make sure that you don't accidentally cut into the meat yourself and create more surface again.

Step # 1: curing

Salting is a necessary step for all types of ham and cannot be left out.

There are different manufacturing methods. I'll go into the ones here that I think make the most sense for hobby ham makers.

First, a general summary of why curing is required and what happens in the process:

In the case of raw ham with raw meat and must try to protect it from spoilage as much as possible.

Salt and reducing the water content of the piece of meat help us with this.

The meat is cured with salt, sugar and spices. The salt removes liquid from the piece of meat. At the same time, it penetrates the meat together with the other flavors. This process is called osmosis.

The longer the meat is cured, the more evenly the salt will be distributed. So patience is required here.

Dry curing methods are used for this for raw ham ...

  • Real dry curing
  • Dry curing in own brine

You can find more information about curing in this post or in my ham book.

You can calculate the minimum duration of curing in your own brine using the following formula:

Thickness of meat in cm * 1.5 days = minimum curing time

In contrast to raw ham, the extraction of liquid is not a priority with cooked ham. On the contrary, in order to make a juicy ham, we need the liquid in the meat. That is why a wet curing process is used here. The osmosis process remains the same here.

Step # 2: blow through

As soon as the meat is cured, you can rinse it under cold water.

The next step is what is known as the burn through. To do this, you hang it in a room that is between 10 and 20 ° C cool for a certain period of time.

No matter how far the distribution of the salt has progressed, if you want to smoke, then your meat must first dry off.

The goal with burning through is to lower the water content of the meat at low temperatures and thus deprive harmful germs of the basis of life.

If you are curing your meat using the dry curing method and the curing time has been long enough, you can skip the step

I know people who leave the ham in a vacuum for twice as long or longer and then don't let anything burn through, just dry it off and smoke it right away. It can't do any harm, because the salt content is precisely measured and more cannot get into the meat.

The duration is about half of the minimum curing time.

Step # 3: smoking (optional)

I am often asked whether you can make a ham yourself without a smoking oven. As you've probably noticed by now, the answer here is: Yes, definitely.

Still, smoking has some advantages ...

Smoking brings you ...

  • Increased shelf life through preservation
  • Smoke aroma and thus changed taste
  • A great color through the smoke

The preservation in the smoke is done by germicidal substances contained in the smoke and a "protective layer" that forms and prevents the penetration of germs. It is important to say that an increased shelf life is only possible with cold smoking (Raw ham) occurs.

The taste is also influenced by the smoke. This can be perceived positively or negatively, depending on your preferences.

The tar wood that is deposited during smoking leads to the golden yellow color change on the surface.

The various smoking methods differ in their temperature ranges and in the equipment required.

You can find more information about cold smoking in this post or in my ham book. Hot smoking variants for cooked ham are also explained there.

Step # 4: tire

The last step is drying or maturing. Theoretically, the ham is edible immediately after curing, but it still contains a lot of moisture.

This is not only bad for cutting fine slices, but also takes a bit of getting used to in terms of consistency.

The moisture is also the reason why there is also the step of drying (burning through) before smoking. Otherwise your ham would not absorb any smoke at all.

There are often values ​​around that your ham must have lost 30% or have matured for a minimum time.

That is partly true but not the whole truth.

A fine salmon ham, for example, tastes much better to me personally when it has more moisture. That means, I let it dry / ripen for a maximum of a week and then cut it.

The complete opposite would be an Iberico ham that has matured for three years.

Between these two extremes there are two variables that you have to consider, because as I described at the beginning, the ham is not only dried during this time, but also matured.

The ham-specific taste develops during ripening. Meat's own enzymes and microorganisms break down meat protein, fats and sugars and create special flavorings.

The longer you let your ham ripen, the tastier BUT also drier it will be.

The shorter you let your ham mature, the juicier and milder it will be.

As with most things, it is again a complete matter of taste.

It is only important that the maximum shelf life is achieved with a weight loss of approx. 30%. You can then store your ham for months or years. If the ham is stored too moist, problems can arise here.

Tips & tricks for making ham yourself

As already mentioned several times, the ham production is simple but not that easy. In the meantime, many butchers even buy them, as the production takes a lot of time and patience.

In order to enable you to manufacture as well as possible, I have 3 tips for you here:

The right choice of meat

For ham production, the meat of older people is best suited (over 1 year) and heavier animals. That's why I advise you no meat from factory farming to use.

The meat from quickly fattened pigs has a very high water content. This can affect maturation and trip yourself up.

Pay attention to hygiene

Since making ham yourself is work with raw meat, it is incredibly important that you work hygienically.

Hold the correct temperatures a. Control the humidity. Follow the steps and make sure that both your work utensils and your hands are clean.

Failure to do so makes it easy for your ham to start moldy and the all effort in vain and the meat has to be thrown away.

Start with smaller hams

I mentioned it before, but I use smaller pieces of ham to start with (e.g. 500 - 750 grams). My experience is that the smaller the ham, the less it can go wrong at the beginning

If you've made a few hams and understand the ripening process, you can dare to go for thicker hams.

5 + 28 other delicious ham recipes

The production works just like in the basic recipe. For some varieties I have linked detailed instructions.

Beef ham (Bresaola)

Here you can find my recipe for beef ham (Bresaola)

Duck ham

Here you can find my recipe for duck ham.

Make bacon yourself

Here you can find my recipe for bacon.

Salmon ham

The recipe will be published on my blog soon.


Here you can find my recipe for guanciale.

28 other delicious ham recipes

In my ham book you will find detailed instructions as well as many other delicious recipes.

Make your own questions and answers about ham

How do you know that the ham is bad?

Your ham is spoiled if it is greasy and has a sour smell. Even if greenish mold can be seen, it can no longer be saved.

How long can ham be kept?

Your ham in one piece, stored in a cool place, can be kept for several months. You can eat it sliced ​​for about 2 weeks.

My ham is moldy, what can I do?

If you see your ham go moldy, you can wash it off with a little vinegar water. You can repeat this process more often if necessary.

The more the ham ripens and thus dries, the less likely it is to develop new mold.

IMPORTANT: This only applies to a small extent to white mold. If you're unsure, throw away your hams and don't experiment.

Can I make ham myself without nitrite curing salt?

Yes. But you can't do that with the method of pickling in your own brine described here.

You should never completely do without nitrite curing salt without the right knowledge, otherwise your ham will spoil due to the possible growth of bad bacteria.

There is also a risk of botulism.

Production without NPS is even more difficult. When someone makes ham without NPS, perfect conditions are created and a different curing method is used.

My ham has a drying edge, what can I do?

If you don't have a ripening cabinet, the ham can quickly dry out at the edge and form an undesirable dry edge.

You have a possibility to counteract this:

Vacuum the ham for a week. This pulls moisture from the inside to the outside and the edge becomes softer.

Filed Under: RecipesTagged With: Ham