Country ham is the salty pinkish colored ham that many people think of when they hear the word ham. You can buy alternatives to country ham, such as canned ham, but it just isn't the same. Artificial coloring is added to give it the look of country ham and artificial flavoring is given to simulate the flavor of the real thing. Try salt curing a ham yourself so you can find out just why the country ham is expensive as a finished product. You will never buy another canned ham again.
Pour the salt, sugar and saltpeter into a big bowl and mix well. If you like a little kick to your country ham, add 1/2 cup of black pepper to the mix.
Force the meat at the bone to separate and leave a gap. Insert 3 tbsp. of the cure mixture and press it deeply into the center in and around the bone. This will prevent the meat and bone from spoiling in the center of the ham.
Flip the ham to the skin side and rub the cure over the surface. Rub it into the skin so that the cure penetrates the skin thoroughly.
Turn the ham over to the meat side and rub the cure into the surface of the ham. Make sure all sides are completely covered with the cure. Let the ham sit wrapped in paper for 24 hours in a refrigerator. This lets the cure get wet and adhere to the ham.
Wrap the ham tightly in the wrapping paper. Place in hanging net bag. Some call these stockinettes. Hang the ham, wide-side down in a well ventilated room. Hanging removes the moisture and must be done in a well-ventilated room, so do not use your basement or cellar for this project. Let the ham hang for 25 days.
Unwrap the ham when the curing process is completed and remove excess cure and mold. Apply a coat of vegetable oil to help prevent additional mold from growing.
Wrap in clean paper, place the ham back in the hanging bag wide-side down. Allow the ham to hang for an additional three to six months.
Inspect the ham once a month for insect or rodent infestation. If the well-ventilated room has adequate screens, then it won't be necessary to unwrap the ham for inspection.
Remove the ham from the wrapping when you are ready to prepare it for cooking. Scrape the mold off of the ham with a wire brush and cut off the end part of the bone.