The taste of wild game “is incomparable,” David Bancroft says. “You can put any label on any cut of meat—free-range, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, stress-free, pasture-raised—and it will never give you what a truly wild animal does.” And for a hunter, there are qualities that go beyond labels. “What I like most,” Bancroft says, “are the added notes of responsibility and self-sufficiency.”
An avid hunter and gardener, Bancroft opened his lauded Acre in downtown Auburn, Alabama, in 2013, and his barbecue restaurant, Bow & Arrow, in 2018. He’s a charcuterie aficionado, and Acre partners with the Auburn University Lambert-Powell Meats Laboratory to fine-tune humanely raised and artfully butchered meats. This cured wild-hog ham is a labor of love. From start to finish, the process will take months, and it will be complete when it is complete. “The ham is ready when it has lost a third of its weight,” Bancroft explains, and how long that takes is a function of the environment in which it is hung. “It’s a very accurate way of measuring,” he says, “but it stinks when it comes to the patience game.”
If you want to try curing your own ham, Bancroft suggests you first find the right frame of mind. To help while away the time, he tries to “step into character and tap into the artistry and appreciation of our ancestors who approached these animals in this way. There’s a sense of intentionality about curing a ham.” Revel in the process, he advises, and you won’t rush the final product.