When it comes to ham, there’s a lot to love. The cured meat is delicious, versatile and can be paired with various side dishes. Choose a sodium nitrate-free and uncured ham rather than being cured with synthetic ingredients like nitrates and phosphates. It’ll be healthier for you and more flavorful.
Whether dry-cured and thinly sliced or wet-cured and smoked, ham is a delicacy to impress your guests. Ham is versatile and can take various flavor accents—from salt to mustard to fruit glazes—without losing its inherently meaty dense texture.
During commercial curing, manufacturers use myosin (a natural meat glue) and a mix of salt, sugar, phosphates, nitrates, and chemicals to create the distinctive look and uniformity that consumers associate with ham. However, natural curing can find a great-tasting ham without unnecessary preservatives.
It’s a Family Tradition
Hams have been a part of holiday traditions for years. They’re a favorite at Thanksgiving and Christmas; many people include them in other family celebrations. Because hams are cut from the rear leg of a pig, they undergo a curing and baking process that gives them their signature taste and texture.
This helps to make them different from pork roasts, often only cured after being sold as food. This is another reason why ham makes the perfect holiday gifts ideas. Unlike gift baskets, which may be shared among friends and family members, a ham can remain exclusively for the recipient to enjoy. This conveys a more personal and meaningful message than many other gifts.
From everyday school lunches to huge holiday celebrations, ham is a versatile and affordable meat that almost any family can enjoy. Hams can be found in many grocery stores, but you’ll want to look for a ham low in sodium and free of preservatives or additives that may trigger a family member’s allergies.
You’ll also want to shop for quality ham cured and smoked without using too much salt or artificial ingredients. This process usually takes a while, so you must plan for that. Another option is to purchase a pre-cooked spiral-cut ham that you can heat for a quick meal. This is a great choice for families that don’t like dealing with carving a ham.
Ham is extremely versatile, which makes it a great option for many occasions. The possibilities are endless, whether boneless or bone-in, sweet or savory, wet or dry cured, smoked or not smoked.
Fresh ham is uncooked and uncured pork, and it can be used as prosciutto or enjoyed on its own in wafer-thin slices. It requires some cooking to make it tender and flavorful.
Cured ham is made by injecting fresh ham with a brine containing sugar, salt, sodium nitrate, sodium erythorbate, sodium phosphate, potassium chloride and other ingredients to cure it. It must be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Various glazes, including sweet, fruity or tangy flavors that pair well with wet-cured or non-salty hams, can be applied.
It’s Easy to Find
Ham is easy to find and cook, making it the perfect entree for a large meal. It is often found in the deli section of grocery stores, while gourmet food shops and online venues specializing in charcuterie will also have a wide selection. The type of ham you choose can affect your flavor experience.
Look for options without sodium nitrates, as these are less processed and better for you. Additionally, consider the pig breed that was used to produce your meat. Different pig breeds have cores with different flavors. Most hams sold at grocery stores are wet-cured and smoked.