• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

4-H youth learn how to dry cure a country ham

Learning how to dry cure a country ham was a hands-on experience for 4-H youth from Woodford, Anderson and Franklin counties recently.

Ashley Norton’s 9-year-old daughter, Kennedy, with some help from her little sister, Presley, age 7, were among the youth who were generously applying a cure mix of black and red pepper, salt and brown sugar before wrapping their hams in paper and putting them in socks to hang in an outbuilding at the Agriculture Resource Building.

Knowing her daughters were learning how to apply a dry cure that preserves a raw ham without refrigeration got the attention of Norton. “You never think about that in this day and age with all of the refrigerators,” she said.

The 4-H youth will wipe off the cure from their hams in May and then put them back in socks to hang until August, said Woodford County 4-H youth development Extension Agent Ryan Farley. He said one ham will go home with each 4-H youth while their other hams will be judged at the Kentucky State Fair.

The youth are required to give a speech on a ham-related topic in front of two judges while their country hams are being judged at the State Fair. Speech topics are based on age, according to Farley.

The backgrounds of the kids who participate in 4-H vary from those who “show livestock animals that are more traditional ag families. And then we also have kids that live in the subdivisions that would have no other experience in agriculture,” said Farley.

“And it’s a great opportunity,” he added, “for kids that don’t have the space or the resources to have a project animal to still learn about livestock, learn about agriculture and see this side of it.”

John Chavez, a 16-year-old Woodford County High School student, who dry cured a ham last year, was joined by his 11-year-old sister, Marissa, this year. He described the State Fair experience as an opportunity to improve his speaking skills while presenting to the judges.

Candice Chavez said her children have been showing goats for several years, and she appreciates what they’ve learned from their project animals and other experiences in 4-H.

Adults who dry-cured country hams on Monday morning, Jan. 15, are not required to give a speech at the State Fair, but they can enter their hams in an open class, Farley said.

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