Ham Basics

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-fashionedcountry-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° F, followed by a 3-minute rest time.

Five Recipe Ideas for Leftover Ham

Ever wonder what to do with all of that leftover ham? Whether you roasted, grilled or slow cooked your h am, there are many ways you can keep enjoying its goodness. Don’t just settle for a basic ham and cheese sandwich – take your leftover ham further as a flavorful twist for recipes.

As an ingredient, leftover ham can be chopped up for casseroles or quesadillas, sliced and topped on salad or pizza, diced for breakfast burritos or added to vegetables for a savory side dish. All it takes is a little inspiration to turn your leftover ham into a delicious meal.

Here are a few ideas to get you cooking with leftover ham.

Ham & Rigatoni Casserole – this delicious casserole is quick and easy and combines pasta, diced ham, Swiss cheese and spinach for a perfect comfort meal.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Frizzled Ham – Take vegetables to a new level with this flavor-packed recipe made with Brussels sprouts, crisped ham strips, orange zest, shallots, garlic, pine nuts and balsamic vinegar.

Chopped Salad with Ham and Goat Cheese – Bite-size strips of ham and feta cheese come together in this fresh chopped salad made with cucumbers, pea pods, cherry tomatoes, pecans and Italian dressing.

Layered Ham and Cheese Quesadillas – This quesadilla can be made with any ingredients you have on hand. Try layering chopped ham, black beans, roasted chilies, salsa and Monterrey Jack cheese in this simple baked double-decker version.

Hot Ham & Pepper Cheese Hoagies – Sandwich night can be so tasty with this oven toasted hoagie featuring sliced ham, spicy brown mustard, mayo, pepper jack cheese, lettuce and tomato. Yum!


Meat Counter Tips

Leftover ham is a delicious way to add instant flavor to lots of standby dishes.

When serving a bone-in ham, plan on two to three servings per pound. Arrange the ham slices, separate from the bone, on a serving platter.

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