What Is Tasso Ham

Tasso ham is a key ingredient to recipes such as jambalaya

You may have come across it in some classic Louisiana Cajun recipes, and you may have asked yourself: What is Tasso ham? While not technically a ham, this delicious preparation of pork shoulder is considered an essential ingredient in many traditional Cajun foods such as jambalaya and shrimp and grits. It is also a classic dish for Mardi Gras.

The best part about Tasso ham is that it is relatively easy to make yourself, or you can order it online at a reasonable price. Many people who have dined in Louisiana or other southern states and have eaten Tasso ham will claim that there is really no substitute for this ingredient.

What is Tasso Ham?

Tasso ham is crafted from a pork shoulder cut, which is why it is not technically a ham (ham is made from the hind leg of a pig). The shoulder, or Boston butt cut, it preferred for this kind of preparation because it has a little stronger pork flavor and has a high amount of fat and connective tissue.

Ideally a Tasso ham is about seven to eight pounds. If you plan on making your own find the highest quality meat that you can get your hands on. The flavors of this cut are strong, so you want the best possible pork available, such as the meat a heritage breed or organically fed pig.

The butt is sliced across the grain into 3-inch thick pieces. These slices are then dredged in a salt cure that includes nitrates and sugar. The meat is left to briefly cure, for about three to four hours. It is then rinsed and rubbed with spices such as cayenne pepper and garlic. The final product is hot-smoked until it is fully cooked, sometimes up to two days.

Making Tasso Ham

There are several different recipes online for Tasso ham. Despite these variations each recipe has a few things in common, such as:

  1. A deboned seven to eight pound pork shoulder or boston butt
  2. Spice rub that includes salt, garlic and red pepper
  3. A hot smoke method of cooking

Here are a couple of different recipes for Tasso ham.

Simple Tasso Ham

Curing Ingredients:

  • A deboned three-pound pork shoulder sliced into one- to two-inch slices (smaller slices that the meat won't have to cure as long)
  • 2 pounds kosher salt
  • 1 pound light brown sugar
  • 1 pound light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon ground bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon ground mace
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice

Curing Directions:

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together and then cover each slice of pork so all surfaces are covered.
  2. Place the pork in a covered dish in the refrigerator for three hours.
  3. Wash the slices of pork thoroughly to get rid of all of the cure and then place the washed slices on a wire rack that is set over a sheet pan.
  4. Set the pan, uncovered in your refrigerator for about three days. Then remove the pork and prepare the rub.

Rub Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup white pepper
  • 1/4 cup cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup marjoram
  • 1/4 cup allspice

Rubbing and Smoking Directions:

  1. Cover each slice of the cured pork with the Tasso rub.
  2. Prepare your smoker with hickory or oak at a temperature of 200 degrees F.
  3. Smoke the pork until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F.
  4. Remove from the smoker and use immediately or tightly wrap it and freeze it until you want to use it.

Classic Tasso Ham Recipe

This Tasso ham recipe takes a little bit longer to make than the previous one, but the results are worth every bit of the wait.Brine Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups curing salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 gallon water
  • 10 pounds pork shoulder, deboned

Brining Directions:

  1. Combine salt, sugar, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and water. Mix until the salt and sugar dissolve in the water.
  2. Pour the brine over the pork shoulder and brine in the water mixture for one week in the refrigerator.
  3. Remove the pork from the brine and discard the brine. Rinse and pat the pork completely dry.
  4. Prepare your smoker to 200 degrees F with your choice of smoking chips.

Rub Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground dried sage
  • 1 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Rub and Smoking Directions:

  1. Mix together the nutmeg, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, sage, thyme and honey.
  2. Evenly coat the pork with the rub and coat the pork completely. Place on a roasting rack inside of a drip pan and then lay the meat on a smoking rack.
  3. Smoke at 200 degrees for about 12 hours or until the internal temperature of the pork shoulder reaches 160 degrees F.
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What Is Tasso Ham