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Ham Varieties and Terminology

Ham Selection and Storage
If you have arrived here via a search engine, don't miss the full informational article on Hams, with information on trichinosis facts, selection, storage and usage. Don't miss the Ham Recipes which include recipes for cooking whole hams as well as those using ham as an ingredient.

More About Ham and Ham Recipes

Ham History
What is trichinosis?
What is the rainbow sheen on ham?
Is moldy country ham safe to eat?
Ham Selection and Storage
Ham Varieties and Terminology
Top 10 Leftover Ham Recipes
Ham Recipes

Ham Varieties and Terminology
Aged Hams These are heavily cured, smoked hams that have been hung to age from one to seven (yes seven!) years. They are covered in a mold which must be scraped and washed off prior to eating.
Bayonne Ham This French ham hails from Bearn or the Basque region, most simply cured with Bayonne salt. These are raw, uncooked hams. Afficionados enjoy raw slices on buttered peasant bread.
Boneless, Bone-in, Partially-Bones Self-explanatory. Partially-boned hams have the hip and/or shank bones removed. Hams with the bone(s) left in are generally more flavorful.
Brine-Cured The meat is soaked in brine and then smoked. This is the most common variety at standard grocery stores. They can vary widely in quality.
Canadian Bacon A lean cut taken from eye of the loin of the middle back. It is precooked smoked meat. It is much more akin to ham than to bacon. Also referred to as back bacon in some areas.
Canned Ham Can consist of a whole piece of meat or bits and pieces pressed together into a form and fused with a gelatin mixture.
Country-Cured Hogs are generally fed on nuts and fruit to produce a more flavorful and tender meat. Must be cured, aged and dried at least 70 days. They are usually dry-cured in salt, then smoked over fragrant hardwoods and aged at least six months. The meat may be drier, depending on the length of aging. A mold will most likely form, which is simply scraped and washed away. Also known as country-style ham. These are also called "old hams" in Kentucky. Most country-cured hams are uncooked and need to be cooked using a special process. Check the label.
Culatello This Italian ham is cured and soaked in wine during aging. It is lean and rosy red, with a clean, delicate flavor. A popular component of antipasto platters.
Cured Ham Pork which has gone through and of a variety of curing processes to preserve the meat.
Dry Curing The entire surface of the meat is thoroughly covered with salt and then stored untl the salt permeates the meat thereby preserving it.
FDA Ham Labeling Ham: contains no added water and at least 20.5 percent protein after removal of fat.
Ham with natural juices: contains at least 18.5 percent protein.
Ham, water added: contains up to 10 percent added water, but at least 17 percent protein.
Ham and water product: contains any amount of water (amount must be listed).
Fresh ham Raw, uncooked port cut of meat from the hog's hind leg. Must be cooked prior to eating.
Fully-Cooked Heated to an internal temperature of 148 degrees F. or above. Need not be heated prior to serving. Can be eaten right from the wrapper or reheated to an internal temperature of 130 degrees F. to release a richer flavor.
Gammon From an Old Northern French word "Gambe" for hind- leg of the pig or ham; popular in Great Britain.
Ham Portions Halves with the center slices removed.
Injection-Curing The process of injecting brine into the meat. This method may also be combined with other curing techniques.
Irish Ham Belfast is famous for their pickled or brined hams, but what gives them their own unique flavor is the process of smoking over peat fires. Like country-cured hams, they must be soaked, scrubbed, simmered and then baked before eating.
Partially-Cooked Heated to at least 137 degrees F., the minimum temperature needed to kill trichina parasite. Most commercial manufacturers cook to an internal temperature of 140 degrees F. Must be cooked prior to serving.
Picnic Ham Meat from the upper part of the foreleg of the hog, including a portion of the shoulder. It is not a true ham, but a less expensive substitute for regular ham, although less tender in texture. It is also referred to as picnic shoulder or pork shoulder. They can be fresh or smoked. Smoked picnic hams are very similar to traditionaly hams.
Prosciutto Italian ham. The meat is seasoned, salt-cured, and air-dried. It is not smoked. The meat is pressed into a dense, firm texure. Parma ham is true prosciutto. Other varieties are now made in the USA. Italian prosciuttos include prosciutto cotto (cooked) and prosciutto crudo (uncooked, but cured and ready to eat). Others are named for the region in Italy in which they were made. Prosciutto is generally eaten as-is or added during the last cooking stages. Extended cooking of prosciutto toughens the meat. Prosciutto Recipes.
Ready-To-Eat Hams Same as fully cooked. Can be eaten right from the wrapper or reheated to an internal temperature of 130 degrees F. to release a richer flavor.
Scotch Ham Once made in Scotland, this term now refers to uncooked, boneless, mildly cured hams sold in casings.
Smithfield Ham A variety of country-cured ham made in Smithfield, Virginia, USA. It is coated with salt, sodium nitrate, and sugar, refrigerated for five days, salted again, refrigerated again for one day per pound of meat, washed, refrigerated for another two weeks, smoked for ten days, and then aged six to twelve months. In order to be labeled a Smithfield, the ham must be cured in the described manner within the city of Smithfield, VA. The meat is deep red in color, dry, with a pungent flavor. Considered a gourmet's choice, they are rather expensive and need to be cooked long and slow before eating.
Sweet-Pickle Curing The meat is covered in a seasoned sweet brine, sometimes referred to as sugar-cured where brown sugar or molasses is added to the cure mix.
Urban-Style This is the style used by commercial manufacturers to produce mass quantities, usually using an injection-curing method. Also known as city hams. The meat is less expensive because the processing is shorter and less complicated. The end result is invariably much blander in taste than country-style.
Westphalian Ham Made from pigs fed with acorns in the Westphalia forest of Germany. It is cured and then slowly smoked over a mixture of beechwood and juniper woods, resulting in a very dark brown, dense ham with a light smoky flavor. It is considered one of the best and as such is pricey. Black Forest ham is similar.
York Ham From England, this mild-flavored ham has delicate pink meat and must be cooked like country-cured ham before eating. It is traditionally served with Madeira Sauce.

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