You may remember a post I wrote back in June that got me started on my quest for a recipe for SPAM or spiced ham. Very few exist online. Then again, you really can’t beat $1.60 a can for the “real” thing. Since then, I’ve made three attempts and on the third try, I pretty much hit the jackpot.
You either love it or hate it. You see, I grew up on the stuff. I had it alongside eggs, in kimbap, in spaghetti sauce (Ragu or Prego depending on the month), or just pan-fried with some rice and kimchi. When fried, the crisped edges were the best part. THE BEST. SPAM is ubiquitous in Korea, served in various comfort dishes such as ramen, budae jigae, kimchi bokum, bokum bap, as a pizza topping…you get the picture. SPAM is one of my guilty pleasures.
I based my recipe on Cupcake Project’s recipe which includes pork shoulder, ham, garlic, and Morton’s Tender Quick (curing salt). The latter which I wanted to avoid. The curing salt lends itself to the salty sweet cured meat flavor and helps to keep the meat pink. My ham loafs oxidized pretty quickly so turned a light brown when open to the air – I’m okay with that if you are. My development of the recipe was not scientific since a lot of my ingredient choices were sort of random, that is, I went with my gut.
My first attempt pretty much followed the recipe except that I substituted Hawaiian Red Lava salt (expensive, but tasty) in place of Morton’s Tender Quick. It was a random choice, but I googled “curing salt” and this was the first salt that popped up. The texture of the loaf was between that of pâté terrine and meatloaf, a little crumbly. And it was terribly bland. Half of it ended up in the trash.
The second attempt included a binder to “smooth” out the texture. I also added some sugar (2 teaspoons) to give the some balance to the flavor and opted to use unrefined sea salt and increased the amount by a half a tablespoon. BLECH. The salt was way too salty. It all ended up in the trash.
I took another look at the list of ingredients on a can of SPAM. It listed a “modified potato starch”, the binder. And I literally added potato starch to this batch. Why not?
My third attempt was a charm. The texture was close to the “real” thing and the flavors were pret-ty close to being spot on. I was so excited. So excited. I lopped off a few slices, fried it up in a pan, and HAD to have it with rice. No cabbage kimchi, but fortunately had some kaenip kimchi (whew). I felt like I was easing into a deep cushiony armchair after taking a bite of the crispy morsel. My version ends up being almost 4 times as expensive as the real thing, but completely worth it.
Happy Holidays spiced ham lovers and lovers-to-be…consider this my gift to you! 😉
Homemade Spiced Ham (SPAM)
Yields about 2 1/2 pounds
2 pounds pork shoulder
8 ounces ham, roughly chopped (I used Niman Ranch uncured ham, European-style)
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 Tablespoon sea salt (I used Baleine)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup potato starch
1 – Preheat the oven 300º F.
2 – Cube the pork into 2-inch chunks. Place in a freezer-safe container or bag. Leave in the freezer for about 20 minutes so that it firms up a bit. This will make it much easier for the pork to move through the grinder.
3 – Grind the pork using a meat grinder into a large bowl.
4 – In a food processor, finely mince the ham and garlic. Add mixture to the pork.
5 – Add salt, sugar, and potato starch. Get your hands in there and mix thoroughly.
6 – You will need (2) 9x5x3 loaf pans. Pack one pan with the pork mixture. Cover with foil.
7 – Center the loaf pan in a 13×9 baking pan. To create a water bath, fill the large pan three-quarters of the way with water.
8 – Bake for 3 hours. Make sure the internal temperature is at least 155º F when finished.
9 – The loaf will be swimming in a lot of fat. Discard the accumulated fat.
10 – Cover the pan with foil again. Nest the empty loaf pan on top of the loaf. Place weights in the pan. I used my 3-pound dumbbells. Best use of those of those weights since I bought them last year. The weights will press the loaf.
11 – Refrigerate the loaf overnight…with the weights.
12 – Unwrap and store in an air-tight bag or container for a few days in the refrigerator. Unlike the canned version, it does have a shelf-life. You can also freeze the ham loaf to enjoy later – wrap the loaf tightly with plastic wrap, zip into a Ziploc-like freezer bag, and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. When ready to eat, thaw overnight in the refrigerator.