Family stays mum on secret to best-selling ham
IN THREE generations, the Allen family has never revealed the secret behind the taste and texture of their award-winning Christmas hams.
This year, John Allen's Maclean Variety Meats cured and smoked 200 hams, which had sold out a week before Christmas.
Mr Allen said the secret to the flavour was the "cure" recipe he used in the three-week long process of making his hams.
The process begins with legs of pork being "pumped" with a mixture of brine and the "cure" before they are soaked in a tub of brine for about two weeks.
The cured legs are then cold dried to ensure they brown up before being smoked for a few days.
He said not many local butchers could make their own hams and he could only think of a few others in the Clarence who tackled it.
"Not many have the infrastructure to do it," he said. "For a start, you need a big coolroom where you can store the legs of pork for up to a year."
Mr Allen said he snap froze the legs and stored them at -20 degrees C before the ham-making process began in early November.
"As we order pork through the year, we keep legs we want for hams and store them," he said.
Customers love the flavour of the hams and so did the judges at the Brisbane Royal Show.
Maclean Variety Meats entered the ham competition at the Ekka two years ago and came away with a blue ribbon.
"Holiday Coast Meats tackles ham production on an even bigger scale, this season knocking out 500 hams.
Like their Maclean colleagues, the staff at Holiday Coast Meats in South Grafton buys all-Australian pork, ensuring their hams are 100% Australian produced and made.
The company's "ham man" David Dick said there were a few secrets in the trade, but let on one.
"Brown sugar is one thing we use. It gives the ham its touch of sweetness and helps give it that golden colour," he said.
"The older blokes swear by pineapple juice, which works like the brown sugar, giving it taste and colour."
Mr Dick said he produced hams in batches of 60 at a time, which was the capacity of the smoker at the factory.