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The Curing Process

Perfected over 60 years by two generations of renowned curemasters, Johnston County Ham's
Cured country ham
A fully cured country ham with it's
beautifully smoked and marbled color.
success has been largely due to our legendary curing process. Based on the traditions of the earliest American settlers, this natural process allowed families to extend the storage life of their meats in the day before refrigeration. A side benefit of this process is a unique flavor transformation so desirable that the "smokehouse" endured long after refrigeration and freezing had made it otherwise obsolete.

Early Colonial techniques involved salting the hams and then letting the hams cure naturally though seasonal changes in temperature that occurred through the winter, spring and summer, rendering the hams perfectly "cured" for the finest flavor and quality. We at Johnston County Hams stay true to these Colonial techniques. Using today's technology that allows careful control of temperature and humidity we simulate the necessary seasons, speeding up the process slightly only because ideal atmospheric conditions remain constant.

We begin by selecting high quality cuts of meat from well respected North Carolina farms. Once the raw hams arrive at our curing facility each ham is first hand rubbed with the “cure”, a dry blend of primarily salt and sugar, and placed into our simulated winter climate - a massive walk-in freezer that keeps the hams near freezing in a high humidity environment. Winter days at just above freezing are necessary to allow salt and sugar to penetrate the meat as they draw out moisture. Each ham will spend at least 40 days in this winter environment before being carefully rinsed and individually hung in mesh bags in preparation of spring.

The rising temperature and lowering humidity of our spring climate allows the salt that penetrated the ham to equalize throughout the meat and the bone. The hams are carefully hung and evenly spaced on large stainless steel racks and exposed to high winds from massive fans. As the spring winds flow back and forth between the hams, excess moisture is removed and the hams begin to take on their familiar appearance.

Aging Hams
   Curemaster Rufus Brown- son of Jesse Brown - examines hams in our state-of-the-art aging room.
After their time in the simulated spring environment, each ham is then moved into our hickory-fired smoker. Hours of exposure to the delicately rich hickory smoke infuse the hams with the famous "smokehouse" flavor and prepare them for their final aging in a summer climate.

Finally warm summer days allow the hams to age and mellow to their rich characteristic aroma and flavor. Hams are kept in this environment for months as they reduce in weight and their flavor matures. Just as a wine maker carefully monitors each cask as it ages, our Curemaster Rufus Brown also diligently examines the hams to ensure each is up to our high standards. A stainless steel needle is delicately inserted into the heart of each ham and the aroma is then scrutinized - any hams that were not cured properly are discarded and the very best are set aside for further aging to become our Curemaster's Reserve Hams.

We at Johnston County Hams take great pride in our curing process - it is the attention to detail during the curing process that results in the unique, lightly smoked aroma and mellow, lightly salted taste that has made our hams legendary.

We invite you to read more about our heritage and the legacy of our late Curemaster Jesse Brown.

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