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Ingredient Information

Ham Types

There are so many items in the market called ham it's hard to believe that they are all related. They are the same only in that ham is the meat of the hind leg of a pig and that it is cured in some way but that's pretty much where the resemblance ends. This is because ham can be bone in or boneless. It can be cured by being smoked, salted, dried, aged or spiced (or any combination of these).

Much of the ham that is sold in markets today is not really ham but leftover pork parts that are squeezed together with some flavorings and preservatives thrown in. I am not a fan of pressed ham but it is usually healthier to have a ham sandwich than most of the other fast food on the market.

Because ham usually has a lot of salt in it (no matter how it is cured), and often a fair amount of fat, I try to buy the best quality ham and use it sparingly.

Prosciutto is probably the most common “gourmet” ham sold today. It is actually a ham that is salted first and then aged by dry curing. Spanish serrano, French bayonne, German westphalian and English york hams are similar. They are not cooked but are technically raw and used after being sliced paper-thin. When I purchase dry cured hams, I look for a market that is busier so the ham will be fresh. Ask for the meat to be sliced and the individual slices separated by wax or butcher's paper. In a sealed zipper bag, you can keep it for a week or so in the refrigerator.

The other ham that I will use occasionally is smoked ham. The Smithfield ham typifies this American type of ham. Initially salt cured, then spiced and smoked, these hams have a terrific ham flavor. They are high in sodium, so use them sparingly.