The tradition of salting and preserving meat dates back to Roman times and in this Czech recipe for preparing sunka (meaning ham) we see age old techniques at work. This recipe isn't for the faint-hearted. You'll need a large tub, a smokehouse and six months worth of patience, but the returns are gold.
2 hind legs of pork
4 kg coarse salt
1 40-litre rectangle plastic container
1 wooden press
Piece of string (1 metre long)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
This ham takes 6 months to cure.
Have a butcher cut and clean the pork legs. Place the pork legs in the plastic container and pour the salt over them. Every couple of days, turn each pork leg over, making sure the salt is covering the entire leg.
Keep the pork legs in the container for approximately four weeks to allow the moisture and blood to drain out.
Remove pork legs from container and dunk in water a couple of times to remove excess salt.
Place pork legs on the wooden press and tighten the clamps. Each day, gradually tighten the clamps as more moisture exudes from of the pork. After three days, the moisture should be drained from the legs.
Remove the pork legs from the press, tie them with a piece of string and hang them up in the smoke house for three days to dry before lighting the smoke house (see the How To section of this website for more information on smoke houses). Smoke them for one week for a couple of hours a day.
Remove from the smoker and apply white pepper to the exposed bones.
They will be ready to eat in five to six months.