Facts on Ham


Information about Ham

Ham has a number ofdefinitions, and its meaning has evolved over time. Ham was originally the cut of pork deriving from the hind legs of swine, which was then often preserved through processes such as curing, smoking, or salting. Cooked leg of pork is called gammon.

Because of thepreservation process, ham is a compound foodstuff or ingredient, being made upof the original meat, as well as the remnants of the preserving agent(s), suchas salt, but it is still a food in its own right.

In many countries theterm is now protected by statute, with a specific definition. For instance, inthe United States, the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) says that "the word "ham," without any prefixindicating the species of animal from which derived, shall be used in labelingonly in connection with the hind legs of swine" Thereare several methods for producing ham from raw meat, and this is undertaken topreserve and flavor the meat. Most ham is safe to eat following preservation,without the need for cooking. Check the label. , some processing choicescan affect legal labeling.

FreshHam: The uncured leg of pork. Since themeat is not cured or smoked, it has the flavor of a fresh pork loin roast orpork chops. Its raw color is pinkish red and after cooking, grayish white.

FullyCooked: Needs no further cooking. Fullycooked in plant. Can be eaten directly as it comes from its packaging orreheated.

Ham: The product is at least 20.5% protein in lean portion andcontains no added water.

Hamwith Natural Juices: The product is atleast 18.5% protein. Can weigh 8% more than uncured weight. Example: cannedhams.

Ham--WaterAdded: The product is at least 17.0%protein with 10% added solution; it can weigh 8% more after curing than uncuredweight.

Hamand Water Products: Product may containany amount of water but label must indicate percent of "addedingredients." For example, "X % of weight is added ingredients"for any canned ham with less than 17.0% protein.

HamSteak: Another name for center cut hamslices.

Hickory-SmokedHam: A cured ham which has been smoked byhanging over burning hickory wood chips in a smokehouse. May not be labeled"hickory smoked" unless hickory wood has been used.

Honey-Cured: May be shown on the labeling of a cured product if honeyis the only sweetening ingredient or is at least half the sweeteningingredients used, and if the honey is used in an amount sufficient to flavor and/oraffect the appearance of the finished product.


Picnic,Pork Shoulder Picnic: A front shoulder cutof pork which has been cured in the same manner as ham.

"Lean"Ham: The term "lean" may be usedon a ham's label provided the product contains less than 10 grams fat, 4.5grams or less of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams cholesterol per 100grams.

"ExtraLean" Ham: A ham labeled "extralean" must contain less than 5 grams fat, less than 2 grams saturated fatand the same cholesterol as allowed per the amount of "lean" ham

Spiral-SlicedHam: A ham that has been placed on aspecial cutting machine that spins the ham around while cutting thin slices allthe way to the bone in a continuous spiral. Usually served with a sweet glaze.

SugarCured: A term that may appear on hamlabels if cane or beet sugar is at least half the sweetening ingredients usedand if the sugar is used in an amount sufficient to flavor and/or affect theappearance of the finished product. Most hams contain sugar in the curing mixture.

Ham Storage

Freshham can be stored in the refrigerator up to five days before cooking.
Cured ham should be refrigerated in the original packaging for up to a week. Store thepackaged ham in the coldest section of your refrigerator.

Wrap the left-over smoked ham tightly in a piece of plasticwrap or place it into a plastic storage container with an air-tight lid if themeat's original packaging is opened or has been removed. Write the storage dateon a piece of masking or freezer tape using a pen or marker. Press the tapeonto the packaged ham as a handy reminder. Leftovers can be frozen for up to amonth. If frozen too long, ham will lose its rosy color and turn greyish-brown,as well as lose texture

Whole hams can be frozen for up to three months,.
Selecting ham for cooking

Fresh ham should have a well-marbled lean section, with afirm white layer of fat. Young pork will have a grayish-pink color while olderpork will be rosy.

Cured hams should be firm and plump, rosy pink with a fine grain to themeat. You will mostly likely have to depend upon dating codes on the ham andthe reputation of the producer to judge the quality of uncut hams.