Description: Cured ham is leg meat that has been dry- or wet-cured. Hams are labeled according to the amount of water added to the ham during the curing process. Because the leg muscle is a well-exercised part of the hog, ham is surprisingly low in fat.
Hams are dry-cured by rubbing salt and spices into the meat’s surface. Wet-curing involves a brine solution that contains water, salt, sugar and spices. Dry-cured hams are known as ‘country-style.’ Wet cured hams are most common.
Wet-cured hams are most commonly available in three varieties. Ham with natural juices is a favorite for a dinner centerpiece. This type of ham has had little water added during the curing process. Its velvety texture and attractive appearance make it an idea choice for holiday meals. Ham with water added retains more water during the curing process than ham with natural juices. This type of ham is ideal for steaks, thin-slicing and shaving. Ham and water product is a common type of ham, most often found at the deli counter. This type of ham has the most water added of all the ham varieties. It is a great choice for ham that’s intended to be served cold.
A specialty of the southern U.S., old-fashioned, country-style or Southern-style ham is dry cured and contains no added water. It is extremely salty and usually served in small portions, very thinly sliced.
All varieties of cured ham are either boneless or bone-in. Bone-in hams are traditionally considered more attractive and boneless are considered easier to serve because of simplified carving. Bone-in hams are available in a variety of shapes - whole or as a shank or butt half. Boneless hams also are available in a variety of sizes.
Most hams are fully cooked, as noted on the label. Cooked hams can be served cold or after warming in the oven. Uncooked hams should be heated to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F., followed by a 3-minute rest time.