If you read my posts about Ham last Christmas, I tried 3 of the best selling hams locally available (Adelinas, Excellente and Majestic) and came to the conclusion that Majestic was the best ham for me..So while I was talking to my friend E, I remembered he mentioned once that he knew the owners of Majestic Ham. I also happen to have met him (T) once so I requested if it was possible to tour his plant and see how they actually make the Ham. He agreed and asked us to go at 6 A.M. which is when they start production (they actually start at 4 A.M.). The process is not as simple as I had thought and has many steps until the final product is ready.
Once the pork legs are purchased/delivered, they are cured in brine in American Oak Barrels for about 4-5 months depending on the size of the leg. The brine is a mixture of water, salt, sugar, etc., and this creates a layer which is later on washed out after the curing time.
After the legs are washed thoroughly, they are smoked with wood from fruit bearing trees for 2-3 hours. After smoking them they are air dried for 1-2 days. At this point all the taste of the ham and smoked is locked in because the curing period. This is again cured in chillers (dry curing this time) at low temperature for another 2 to 3 months. This second curing stage is what really locks in all the flavors of the ham. As you can see this is along process but this is what ensures the taste and aroma of the ham.
After the long curing process, the legs of Ham are cooked/boiled in a mixture of water, salt, pepper, Laurel leaves, Star Anise, Cloves, etc... If I'm not mistaken the boiling takes another 2-3 hours. The skin is then removed and they proceed to glazing it. White sugars is spread all over one side of the leg than it is glazed with a hot metal rod. This glazing adds the touch of sweetness that the ham has...then the legs are then wrapped in cling wrap and vacuum packed for delivery.
This production process is done 3 times a week whole year round and they can do up to 100 legs per day production.
Some interesting Facts:
1. Majestic ham has been in operation for 60 years.
2. From start to finish, the ham looses up to 50% of it's original weight, due to curing, cooking, etc...
3. They do not use any kind of preservatives, (except salt) so shelf life is limited to 3 days in refrigerator. If frozen, up to 6 months.
4. On November and December alone they produce up to 12,000 legs
It was a great learning experience seeing how they make Majestic Ham and I'd like to thank E and specially T for allowing me to go and take all the pictures. They even gave us a fresh pack of sliced ham to take home. I'm sure many of you have tasted Majestic Ham but if you have not, I suggest you do. They have 15 to 20 stores in Metro Manila, where you can buy whole legs or sliced, or even scraps, that can be used for cooking.