Alex's Recipes



Dale's Firepit Ham 2003


Narrative and photos by Dale LeCrone
Thanksgiving 2003


To study up on the fine art of firepit cooking, please see the 2001 recipe and narrative "Firepit Turkey" by Dave Norton. Preparation of the bird is critical for it to do its best buried in a bed of coals for 36 hours. Preparation of the fire pit is equally critical! Dave's original article is listed as "Firepit Turkey" under "Poulty". This successful formula was adapted for ham! Click the link in the scrolling menu to the left (if you see it) or jump directly to it here.


To view larger images of the festivities, just move your mouse pointer over any one of the images!

Dale began preparing his firepit on November 24. "Three happy campers (Chef’s d’pit?) don’t you think? So, as you can see, this year’s culinary experience is off to a fine start. Tonight we brine da ham."

November 25: We also enlisted a documentation person to record the highly scrutinized brine recipe…here it is:

Fresh Ham Brine

  • 1 Big ol Fresh Ham (22 Pounds!) Score the fat with a serrated knife in a diamond pattern being careful not to cut all the way to the meat.
  • 4+ Cups Kosher Salt
  • Remains of 2 bags brown sugar (1 light, 1 dark)
  • 1 Month old South African Orange (Cut in half, squeeze, toss whole thing in brine)
  • 3 Whole Heads of Garlic, Crushed. (Use neighbor for the peeling process)
  • Bay Leaves – until it looks like enough.
  • 1 Cup (less what falls on floor) black peppercorns crushed with mortar & pestle.
  • 1 – 5th or so cheap rum, stolen from your parents bar in 1978. (parents sure are handy) Less reserve for Cuba Libres.
  • 1- Mostly new jar of fresh horseradish.
  • Enough REALLY HOT tap water to cover ham.
  • Mix well and add the ham.
  • Quickly add cold water to completely cover the ham (cause you forgot to cool the brine first)
  • Add ice to brine since cold water isn’t working fast enough.
  • Cover brine tub and place in Michigan refrigerator (back porch) overnight.

Well there’s the brine recipe. I’ll pass along the rub recipe after we finalize it tonight. And ahhh yes, tonight’s the big night. It’s time to fire up da pit and bury da ham!!!! Woooohooooo! Pics to follow!

November 26. The Rub Recipe:

Decorate the brined ham with whole cloves.
Stuff enough whole cloves of garlic in the fat so you can smell really good for days afterward.
32oz of honey mixed with one bag of brown sugar and just enough lemon juice to make you pucker!
“ Pat” the ham with the honey mixture…use it all…it’s supposed to be messy.
Wrap in 3 packages of cheese cloth…you’ll find it in the “Housewares” section at the supermarket.
Wrap in at least 7 yards of muslin (We would have used last years, but the girls wouldn’t let us save it).
Wrap in one roll of heavy duty aluminum foil.
Place wrapped ham in a wire cage and bury deep in those hot coals!




November 26.

  • Finishing touches,
  • Into the pit we go!
  • The totally legal coverup!







Thanksgiving Day, November 27

Well there you have it. Another successful year and a wonderful Holiday celebration! Who woulda thunk it….that Dave’s inspirational Firepit Turky Recipe would warm the hearts of so many (heck…what do you think the odds were for me FINDING Dave’s recipe….I had the dream…Dave had the directions !!). Thanks guys, It has now become tradition. Our Thanksgiving holiday has become a wonderful process that allows all involved the opportunity to check out from the everyday routine and enjoy the company and the spirit of the season. The process has become what we call….”The five days of Thanksgiving”.

Of note…

Dave, our “hole time” was about 40 hours (Tuesday 11pm – Thursday 3pm). We felt the ham was well into the cool down process. The ham was definitely warm enough and very done, however, we now feel very good about the process and pit composition that we can reduce the hole time down to the 30 hours you are moving to. Maybe even less. Even though we felt the ham was in too long, the ham was still excellent which supported are original theory that the fresh ham would be much more forgiving (concerning over cooking) than a Turkey.



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