Hamming It Up
By John Havel
In the United States, ham is a traditional Easter food. In the early
days, meat was slaughtered in the fall. There was no refrigeration,
and the fresh pork that wasn't consumed during the winter months
before Lent was cured for spring. The curing process took a long time,
and the first hams were ready around the time Easter rolled around.
Thus, ham was a natural choice for the celebratory Easter dinner.
Hams come in many types. They're fully cooked or uncooked, wet-cured
or dry cured, bone-in, semi-boneless or boneless. Should you buy a
whole ham, a shank half, a butt half, or a canned ham? How do you
choose a ham?
The three most common types of ham in the United States are fresh
ham, city ham and country ham. Fresh ham is not cured and can be
cooked like any other cut of fresh pork. Wet curing is the most
popular method for curing ham. Traditionally, a fresh ham was soaked
in a liquid curing solution for a couple of weeks so that the cure
could penetrate the meat. Today, fresh hams are injected with a curing
solution and cure in just a day or two. After the ham is cured, it is
usually smoked. The result is a "city ham", a moist, juicy ham like
the ones you find in the supermarket.
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