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smoking, salting, drying, and aging farm meats

At Ravenswing farm we get into our preserving. Smoked and salted meats have been a farm staple in the southwest for manny generations, and conjure up childhood memories of long strings of drying venison jerky and my grandfathers handmade salt box packed with pork raised on the farm.

For our tribute to our local preservation heritage we decided to create a southwestern fusion prosciutto with some of the larger Hams harvested from our farm raised pigs. the full three step preserving process is well suited to our dry climate as the separate processes each provide a much needed element for stabilizing and long term storage. The meat was covered in a spice mixture mainly consisting of New Mexico red chillies, and traditional southwest spices. The meat was covered with wet Alligator juniper (Juniperus deppeana) branches and smoked over oak coals for 15 hours.

The long smoking process naturally adds nitrates and lends the meat a smoky Juniper flavor that penetrates the entire cut. The cuts are then packed into a large saltbox built on the plan of my grandfather's original that left such an impression on my young mind. The salt draws out moisture through diffusion and prevents the growth of unwanted spoilage microbes while aging, it also allows the growth of beneficial bacteria and fungi that act upon the proteins and fats available in the meat. In essence we are dry fermenting the meat which adds a tremendous amount of flavor. The meat was kept in the saltbox for 4 months, after salting the cuts were moved to an aging refrigerator and held at 54 degrees F for the remainder of the aging process resulting in a hard aged meat similar in many ways to Italian prosciutto.

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