Ham, dry-cured for eight months, removed from bladder (this photo by iPhone, the ones below are by Donna)

On a recent trip to Charleston, SC, to promote Twenty, my first stop, thanks to a tweet from Ideas In Food was to the kitchen of Cypress, where chef Craig Deihl gave me a truly impressive tasting of his dry cured meats and sausages. Damn they were good—highly recommend you wonderful folks in Charleston stop in for a taste. One of the items he sliced for us he called “knuckle.”

Now one of the hardest parts of understanding salumi is getting a handle on terminology. When I inquired further he used the Italian term, fiocco, which is a name for a boned portion of the ham (the other larger boned cut is called culatello). The above cut is from that same area of the ham, but what really matters to me is that there is a good proportion of fat relative to the meat in this part of the ham. Brian Polcyn and I will be covering all of this and more in our book, Salumi, which will be published in August (great cover, no?), a follow up to Charcuterie.

Last May, we bought a hog from an amish farmer who had no problem saving the bladder for me. Culatelli are traditionally sewn into bladders but government regs don’t allow them to be sold.  I sewed the ham up in a bladder and tied it in the manner of a culatello. I hung it in a mini-fridge in which I set a pan of salt water and jury-rigged a foil trough beneath the freezer element to channel water that condensed on the freezer element back into the pan of water. The pan was about two inches high. I filled it with an inch of water. During the first months of hanging, the pan of water over flowed.

When I was ready to serve it, I soaked the ham in water for a day to loosen the bladder (above).

Ham in bladder after eight months, before soaking

I removed the bladder, rinsed and dried the ham. I wrapped it in a wine-soaked All-Strain cloth and refrigerated it. Two days later I sliced and served it.

Sliced ham, dry-cured for eight months

The above ham had the deep rich flavor of the best prosciutto with just the right amount funk, the elusive taste of age. It reconfirmed for me how easy it is to cure whole muscles at home and the importance of sourcing well-raised, humanely slaughtered pig.

Other related Salumi posts:

My post on a trip to Italy with Chef Polcyn doing research for Salumi.

Salumi in America

Salumi Tour Part 2

Salumi Update

If you liked this post on Cutetello, check out these other links:

© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved


19 Wonderful responses to “Dry-Cured Ham at Home”

  • Mike Romeo

    Did you happen to weigh it upon declaring it ‘done’? I’ve been awaiting this post in the back of my mind since the blue football one and as you commented afterward in that post…it was 1700g fresh. I’d be interested in the final yield.

    With regard to the wine soaked cloth,two questions-did it get any secondary treatments of vino during the 2 day rest, and what was the purpose behind it (one final aromatic adjustment of the ‘funk’ etc.)?

  • Paul from Journeyman Cook

    Looks wonderful! Ever since I got Charcuterie I’ve been wanting to try every technique. It’s time to just do it!

  • jeff

    a friend and i processed to ham’s worth into fiocco and culatello this past April… the fiocco we sliced up a few months ago, and the 1st (smaller) culatello).

    the culatello was very nice – more pure than the fiocco. i suspect the difference was the fiocco was stuffed into beef bung and the culatello into bladders. the bung has a much more noticeable odor to it…

    i did not soak the bladder off – just sliced away – i will consider trying to remove the bladder when i slice up the 2nd (larger) culatello

  • Scott

    Traditionally, in Zibello, home of DOP culatello, they wrap the culatelli in wine soaked cloth. There are 2 blogs dedicated to salumi that have done culatelli in depth, of which one is mine, cured meats blog is the other.

  • hawaiianicolina

    As part of my resolution for (more) exercise, if i jog from the west side to your house, may i please have a taste?? and by jog i mean drive. and by drive i mean speed.

  • Deanna B.

    My dad is going to be so excited for Salumi. So much so, he will probably add another refrigerator to the collection just for curing. It might be time for us to sponsor another 4H pig at the rate he goes through pork.

  • Terrie

    That looks amazing. Wish the new book was already out…we’re going be having our second annual Pig Day (er…Weeks) at the end of the month, and I want to do this! Any tips on butchering?

  • Scott


    how about the links then, would love people have a look!

    tried to post them, I guess links aren’t allowed?

  • Larry

    I wanted to thank you for inspiring me to “take meat to the basement,” as my wife calls it. I have had one failure (saucisson sec in an uncontrolled environment) and five successes (sopressata x 2, chorizo, lonzino, coppa, pancetta), all since August 2011. I’m trying to upload a photo of my breakfast today, which included coppa from your book, sopressata from your book, lonzino, ciabatta from your blog, and coffee made from beans which I roasted at home. It’s very satisfying to have a meal consisting of food and beverage made entirely by me.

  • mike landry

    I’m looking forward to you book “Salumi”, I thoroughly enjoyed “Charcuterie”(as well as the rest of your books). I haven’t had the confidence to attempt the recipes, but it’s giving me a better understanding of salt. I thank you for that.

  • Joel

    I use a mini-fridge for my meat curing, too. With some quick internet searching and genetic proclivity to geek-ness, it is now temp (61F) and humidity (60%) controlled, with performance logged on a temp/humidity recording USB datastick. As a bonus, it also happens to be the perfect place to keep red wine ready to drink.

  • danimalrx

    This looks fantastic! I’ve just been reading through Charcuterie recently and can’t wait to try some new things (bacon is being smoked this weekend). we’ve just moved to the Cleveland area and have found some good sources for meat, but I was curious to hear your take on where you recommend. How did you find your wonderful Amish source? Thanks so much!!

  • Dan Tebbe

    I live in Germany, and I recently purchased your book, Charcuterie. The curing salt available here isn’t 6% Sodium Nitrite, but rather 0.5%. Does this just mean doing the math and using less kosher salt when mixing the dry cure, or should I search around for the 6% stuff?


  1.  Memohotel Blog » Blog Archive » Dry-Cured Ham at Home
  2.  Dry-Cured Ham at Home | Shelterholic Now Food
  3.  Whole Muscle Curing at its best : The Butcher's Guild
  4.  Romaine Lettuce. « Sarah's Cooking