|By Bob Weaver|
It's butchering time in Sunny Cal.
In days gone by most of the hog meat was smoked, but some was canned.
The smoking process is still used by a few die-hards, but most folks take a shorter route to preservation - canning, freezing or diluted methods using "smoked" chemicals applied directly to the meat.
Old-timer Everet Starcher of Sinking Springs gave his directions to smoking hams in 1976. He was in his 80s when he shared his recipe, which was recalled by Joy Morgan Stevens:
Put your hams on a table or flat surface where mice or nothing can get on them. Rub Morton Salt Sugar Cure liberally over the cut surface of the hams.
There is a place in the hams where you can put your finger in, so be sure that you fill that cavity with the sugar cure.
Let your hams "cure" on the flat surface for a month or month and a half.
For your smoke, use hickory, sassafras or corn cobs. Smoke about four days. Some people smoke them for up to two weeks.
You can tell how brown the hams are getting.
The fire is for smoke only, a very small fire. You might use and old iron pot placed inside another heavy metal surface so it doesn't burn the floor.
All you want is a trail of smoke coming up toward the hams which will be hung by placing a heavy wire through the shank and securing the hams to a rafter or ceiling of your smoke house.
After you have finished smoking the hams, run them liberally with black pepper. Use plenty. Then wrap the hams in an old sheet or something and put each ham in something like a muslin bag or cotton feed sack.
Joy Morgan Stevens said "You can't go wrong using Evert's plan."