Few things in cooking are as important as the ingredients. The knowledge of how pantry items are prepared in factories, versus the old-world way of making them at home, is something I am constantly seeking. I make a good amount of cured meat, like bacon, salt pork, ham, corned beef, sausages, etc. every fall from local sources.

Making pantry items at home is not only fun, it forces you to really plan how you’re going to execute the recipes. One of the easiest and most delicious is a Cajun ham called Tasso. It’s spicy, salty, sweet and savoury—great for boosting a moose stew, slicing into a gumbo or étouffée, or pan-frying with fresh eggs.

The beauty about this ham is, like its brother the “Bacon Chop”, it only takes 24 hours to make. You will need a smoker, but beyond that no special ingredients are necessary.

You can look for mass-produced Tasso ham at supermarkets, but they taste nothing like the real deal, so don’t disappoint yourself—take a crack at this the next time you throw a load in the smoker.

Although you can use any part of the pork shoulder for the steaks, the capicola/coppa, or eye of the shoulder, is the best part to use.

Cajun Tasso Ham

Cook with these Cajun dry rubbed hams, or Tasso, as you would bacon or sausage PHOTO: Jeffery Mickelson

INGREDIENTS:

6 pork shoulder steaks (1-inch thick)

Dry rub:

250g kosher salt

125g dark brown sugar

2 tsp fresh ground allspice

1 tsp cayenne chili or chili of your choice

1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

METHOD:

  • Mix ingredients for dry rub together thoroughly. Set aside a little bit of cayenne, allspice and black pepper to sprinkle on the steaks before they’re smoked.
  • Rub steaks generously with the dry rub on both sides. (You may have some left over.) You want a good coating on each steak. The steaks will be rinsed before smoking, so don’t stress too much about it!
  • Place the steaks in a sealable plastic bag or plastic container.
  • Refrigerate for 12 to 15 hours.
  • Remove the steaks from the fridge and rinse the rub off well under cold water. Pat the steaks dry with a towel and lay out to dry for about an hour. Feel free to sprinkle with a bit of extra spice, if you like, at this point.
  • Preheat your smoker to 190 to 200°F, and prepare some freshly cut birch or willow/alder for smoke wood.
  • Arrange the steaks in a single layer and smoke for about four hours with heavy smoke, until their internal temperature hits 150F.

These hams will be good in your fridge for about week, but they also freeze well if vacuum-bagged.