4-Hers invited to ‘ham’ it up during annual project

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By Joyce Doyle

One of the areas that 4-H offers to its youth is the country ham project. If 4-H members are interested in learning this process, a contract must be signed and in my hands by Dec. 8. 

Please call the Extension office and request a contract or stop by and pick one up. The contracts also will be in each school office for the child to pick up. It is so exciting to see the young people as they learn some “back in the day” projects. Here are some facts about curing “green” hams the 4-H way.

The majority of the hams in the project began the curing process the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. Day at ham houses across the state. Hams in the 4-H project are ambient cured, which means they are cured outside and rely on Mother Nature to provide the natural refrigeration to keep the product fresh. This style of curing can allow each ham to have a subtle, unique taste.

Hams need to maintain an internal temperature of 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit to preserve freshness. Concern for the hams begins to rise when outdoor temperatures climb above 55 degrees, which much of the state reached or exceeded the week of Jan. 30. Some hams checked for internal temperature did reach or exceed 50 degrees during that time. 

It typically takes 60 days to complete the ham-curing process. Once this time has passed, University of Kentucky extension meats specialist Gregg Rentfrow will check hams across the state for any spoilage issues, although none are expected.

A positive effect of the warmer weather is it allows the hams to absorb more of the curing mixture, which should make the hams more flavorful. 

The member will pay $55 for two “green” hams and on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the child will come to the Extension office and cure their hams. During this process, the youth will learn many things. Not only do they learn the process of curing hams, but also they must write a speech where they will go to the Kentucky State Fair and deliver their speech.

The topics for the 2014 ham speeches are: Junior Division (child born 2004-2000) “How to store and cook a country ham” where the child will discuss the best ways to store their country ham after the fair and the various ways to cook a country ham. The Senior Division (child born 1995-1999) “Design a country ham curing facility for our counties project.” The reason for this topic is because more and more counties are building their own country ham houses.  The member will have an unlimited budget, design the counties dream country ham house and curing facility.  They may use one sheet of poster paper to illustrate their talk.  

Don’t forget the deadline is Dec. 8 and adults you, too, may request hams and as long as we have room in our ham house we will be happy to let you share our facility.

For more information on the 4-H country ham project, contact Joyce Doyle at the Cooperative Extension Office at 502-732-7030.

4-H Photography Club

The next meeting is Wednesday, Dec. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Extension office. Please bring any photos that you have taken since the first meeting to share. Photos do not need to be printed; just bring in your photo card or a USB. If you have not taken any photos, Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to do so.

Joyce Doyle is the Carroll County Extension agent for 4-H and youth development. Call her at (502) 732-7030 or send e-mail to JWDoyl2@email.uky.edu.