Ham curing by 4-H youth at Burgers' Smokehouse

Democrat photo / David A. Wilson
The ham belonging to a 4-H member is wrapped after the curing mixture has been applied. Members of many Missouri 4-H clubs chose hams Saturday, Jan. 11, at Burgers' Smokehouse, to cure for entry in fairs.

Democrat photo / David A. Wilson The ham belonging to a 4-H member is wrapped after the curing mixture has been applied. Members of many Missouri 4-H clubs chose hams Saturday, Jan. 11, at Burgers' Smokehouse, to cure for entry in fairs. Photo by David Wilson.

— By DAVID A. WILSON

Democrat Staff

Burgers' Smokehouse was a busy place early on Saturday, Jan. 11, as 4-H youth from all over the area picked out hams and began the curing process.

Getting the young people started on ham curing is just one of the many things the local business does for the area, but it is an important one.

In preparation for the ham curing projects, the 4-H members gathered at the facility on south Highway 87.

According to Steve Lehman of Burgers', about 800 hams are being cured this year. The hams average about 24 pounds. When cured, each should weigh about 19 to 20 pounds.

The cured 4-H hams will be entered in various county fairs and the Missouri State Fair.

After selecting a ham, each young person begins the ham curing process by applying the "cure," a mixture of salt, brown sugar, sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite and black pepper. The hams are rubbed down with the mixture, with a few handfuls put on the meaty part on top. The ham is then wrapped in butcher paper, placed in a stocking net, sort of like cheese cloth. A wooden rod is put through the loop on the net, then the ham is hung on a rack.

Lehman said the hams should be taken out of the butcher paper after seven or eight weeks, put back in the net, and hung up again. The ham should be ready by fair time.

Morgan and Moniteau 4-H members usually leave the hams at Burgers', while those of the more distant 4-H members are taken home to hang and complete the curing process.

This is the third year for the Lamar 4-H Club members to take Burgers' hams home to cure.

Curing or preserving pork, primarily using salt, has been done for at the last 4,000 years. Settlers from Europe brought the practice to the United States.

When E.M. Burger and his family began curing hams for their own use in the 1930s, they used a recipe for dry cure brought from Germany by his mother. Since extra hams could be sold, the family increased the number until a building was built for the purpose in 1952.

In the 62nd year of Burgers' Smokehouse, the company is known around the world for its meat products.

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