How to Salt Cure a Deer Ham: A Step-by-Step Guide

Deer meat is a delicious wild game that many hunters enjoy preserving. Salt curing a deer ham is an old-fashioned technique that infuses the meat with flavor while extending its shelf life. This process concentrates the flavor and changes the texture resulting in a unique cured product.

While similar to pork, deer meat has its differences when it comes to curing. Follow this complete guide to properly dry cure your own deer ham at home.

Ingredients Needed

Curing a deer ham takes only a few basic ingredients

  • 1 deer hind leg (5-7 lbs)
  • 1 cup kosher or pickling salt
  • 1⁄2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ginger powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Cheesecloth
  • Container or bag for curing

The salt draws moisture from the meat for preservation Sugar balances the salty flavor Spices add extra flavor. Cheesecloth protects the ham during aging.

Step 1: Prepare the Deer Leg

Choose a hind leg from a freshly harvested deer. Remove the hide and trim away any hair or dirty spots. Cut away any hanging tendons but leave the leg bone in. Rinse under cold water and pat thoroughly dry.

If you plan to age the ham after curing, trim the hoof back to expose more of the bone. This allows better air circulation.

Weigh the leg. This determines how much cure is needed. Plan for 1/2 ounce of the cure mix per 1 pound of meat.

Step 2: Make the Curing Mix

In a small bowl, combine:

  • The salt and sugar
  • Spices (black pepper, ginger, cinnamon)

Mix until well blended. You can multiply the amounts above as needed to have enough cure based on the weight of your venison leg.

Step 3: Apply the Cure

Place the deer ham in a container like a casserole dish. Liberally rub the curing mix all over the meat, coating every surface.

Wrap the ham tightly in cheesecloth. Place it back in the container. Pour any remaining cure over the wrapped ham. Cover and refrigerate.

Step 4: Cure the Deer Ham

Cure the venison ham in the refrigerator for 10-14 days based on its size. 7 days per inch of thickness is a common guideline.

Turn and massage the ham in the cure daily. This evenly distributes ingredients and removes blood from the meat.

After curing, rinse off any cure mix under cold water. Pat the ham dry with paper towels.

Step 5: Age the Deer Ham (Optional)

For fuller flavor, you can choose to age your venison ham after curing.

Wrap in cheesecloth and hang the ham in a cool area (55-60°F) with 60-70% humidity for 1-3 months. An unheated basement works well. Use a hygrometer to monitor humidity.

Check it periodically. Discard if any mold appears.

Step 6: Storing the Cured Deer Ham

You can freeze the cured deer ham for up to 6 months. Slice it before freezing for easier use.

For refrigerator storage, wrap in butcher paper then plastic wrap to exclude air. Use within 3 weeks.

Keep dried aged hams tightly wrapped at room temperature. Cut off pieces as needed.

Step 7: Cook and Enjoy!

Before eating, soak cured deer ham for several hours or up to a full day in the fridge, changing the water occasionally. This reduces saltiness.

Simmering or baking the ham works well. Cook to an internal temperature of 145°F.

Serve the unique flavored venison ham sliced thin or chop it up for use in soups, chili, etc.

Tips for Success

  • Weigh the deer leg before curing to determine how much mix is needed. Apply 1⁄2 ounce of cure per pound of meat.

  • Cure thicker cuts for longer at a ratio of about 7 days/inch. Monitor daily and add cure if needed.

  • Soak well before cooking to reduce saltiness. Simmer, bake, or smoke the cured ham.

  • Use fruitwoods like apple, cherry, or peach to smoke deer ham for a milder flavor.

  • Let smoked venison sit overnight before slicing for best texture.

With some time and care, you can create your own delicious salt-cured venison ham entirely from scratch. Enjoy a taste of wild game unlike anything from the store!

Salt curing your deer harvest


How long do you salt cure a ham?

Allow the hams to cure 2-1/2 days per pound of ham. If the hams freeze during curing, allow one additional day for each day they are frozen.

How to salt cure meat the old fashioned way?

To dry cure meat with salt, cover it entirely in salt for a full day. In order to make sure the meat is completely covered, fill a container with salt, place the meat on top, and pour more salt over until it’s buried. You can also add some flavorings (like celery seed and black pepper) at this point, if you want.

Can you preserve venison in salt?

I know salting is one of the oldest ways of food preservation but if you were in a pinch would raw beef or venison be preserved if you stuck it in a bag and covered it in salt? Yeah, that would work. Vinegar, salt, a cold cellar, smoking, curing, brining.

Can you salt venison?

It is a simple and effective way to add flavor and moisture to your meat, and it’s especially well suited for venison. Grab some kosher or sea salt (steering clear of fine salt or table salt). *Optional step would be to add other non-salt-based seasonings like sugar, spices, or herbs to the salt mixture.

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