One of America’s Favorites – Ham

December 10, 2012 at 10:47 AM | Posted in baking, cooking, Food | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Ham is a cut of meat from the thigh of the hind leg of an animal, sometimes being a pigs. Nearly all hams sold today are either fully

Ham

Ham

cooked or cured.

 

The word ham is derived from the Old English ham or hom meaning the hollow or bend of the knee.

 

The United States largely inherited its traditions relating to ham and pork from 17th-century Britain and 18th-century France, the latter especially in Louisiana. The French often used wet cure processed hams that are the foundation stock of several modern dishes, like certain gumbos and sandwiches. Until the very early 20th century, men living in the southern Appalachians would drive their pigs to market in the flatlands below each Autumn, fattening up their stock on chestnuts and fallen mast. Further, archaeological evidence suggests that the early settlers of Jamestown (men largely from the West Midlands) built swine pens for the pigs they brought with them and, once established, also carried on an ancient British tradition of slaughtering their pigs and producing their pork in mid-November. To this day, the result is that in many areas, a large ham, not a turkey, is the centerpiece of a family Christmas dinner.

 

In the United States, ham is regulated primarily on the basis of its cure and water content. The USDA recognizes the following categories: Fresh ham is an uncured hind leg of pork. Country ham is uncooked, cured, dried, smoked or unsmoked, made from a single piece of meat from the hind leg of a hog or from a single piece of meat from a pork shoulder (picnic ham). Country ham typically is saltier and less sweet than city ham. Virginia’s Smithfield ham, a country ham, must be grown and produced in or around Smithfield, Virginia, to be sold as a Smithfield ham. Similar hams from Tennessee and the Appalachians have a similar method of preparation, but may include honey in their cures and be hickory smoked. As country ham ages, mold may grow on the outside of the ham, while the rest of the meat continues to age. This process produces a distinctive flavor, but the mold layer is usually scrubbed or cut off the ham before being cooked and served.

For most other purposes, under US law, a “ham” is a cured hind leg of pork that is at least 20.5% protein (not counting fat portions), and contains no added water. However, “ham” can be legally applied to “turkey ham” if the meat is taken from the turkey thigh. If the ham has less than 20.5% but is at least 18.5% protein, it can be called “ham with natural juices”. A ham that is at least 17.0% protein and up to 10% added solution can be called “ham—water added”. Finally, “ham and water product” refers to a cured hind leg of pork product that contains any amount of added water, although the label must indicate the percent added ingredients. If a ham has been cut into pieces and molded, it must be labelled “sectioned and formed”, or “chunked and formed” if coarsely ground.

Sugar is common in many dry hams in the United States; it is used to cover the saltiness. The majority of common wet-cured ham available in U.S. supermarkets is of the “city ham” or “sweet cure” variety, in which brine is injected into the meat for a very rapid curing suitable for mass market. Traditional wet curing requires immersing the ham in a brine for an extended period, often followed by light smoking.

In addition to the main categories, some processing choices can affect legal labeling. A ‘smoked’ ham must have been smoked by

A hickory smoked country ham being displayed

A hickory smoked country ham being displayed

hanging over burning wood chips in a smokehouse or an atomized spray of liquid smoke such that the product appearance is equivalent; a “hickory-smoked” ham must have been smoked using only hickory. However, injecting “smoke flavor” is not legal grounds for claiming the ham was “smoked”; these are labeled “smoke flavor added”. Hams can only be labelled “honey-cured” if honey was at least 50% of the sweetener used, is at least 3% of the formula, and has a discernible effect on flavor. So-called “lean” and “extra lean” hams must adhere to maximum levels of fat and cholesterol per 100 grams of product.

Turkey ham, a boneless product made from pressed turkey thigh meat, is a low-fat alternative to traditional ham in the US.

Spiral sliced ham has become popular option for bone-in or boneless hams sold in the US. In the spiral cutting process, the ham is firmly affixed, on the top and bottom, to a rotating base, which is gradually lowered as a blade is applied. This creates one single continuous slice.

 

Tinned ham (more commonly known in the United States as “canned ham”) is a meat product that is sold exclusively in tins (or cans). The ham itself is usually formed from smaller cuts of meat, cooked in the can, and is often covered in an aspic jelly during the canning process. Two versions are available, perishable and shelf-stable. Tinned ham is usually sold in supermarkets and convenience stores.

 

Ham is uncooked preserved pork. It is cured (a preservation process) usually in large quantities of salt and sugar. Then hot smoked (hung over a hot, smokey fire but out of direct heat) to preserve it more. This process keeps the pink hue of the uncooked meat. Standard pork, like chops, are raw and unpreserved. When heat is applied to the meat a chemical reaction happens that turns the hemoglobin white. This also happens when an acid is applied to meats.

 

The pink color of ham develops in the curing process which involves salt and usually either nitrites or nitrates. The nitrate cure is used

Sliced ham

Sliced ham

for product that will either be kept a long time or at room temperature like dry salami. Most hams are cured with nitrite and salt today.

 

The cure prevents the growth of unhealthy bacteria (maybe deadly) before enough moisture is withdrawn by the salt. This is particularly important if the product is to be smoked above 40F when these bacteria grow. The “danger zone” for uncured product is between 40F and 140F.

 

There is confusion in the words curing and brining. Brining is done with salt and usually sugar and only alters the product color a little. Curing is done with salt and nitrates.

 

Sodium nitrite is used for the curing of meat because it prevents bacterial growth and, in a reaction with the meat’s myoglobin, gives the product a desirable dark red color. Because of the toxicity of nitrite (the lethal dose of nitrite for humans is about 22 mg per kg body weight), the maximum allowed nitrite concentration in meat products is 200 ppm. Under certain conditions, especially during cooking, nitrites in meat can react with degradation products of amino acids, forming nitrosamines, which are known carcinogens.

Leave a Comment »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.

Cashews & Quinoa

Dietitian Approved Vegan Recipes

healthienut - Easy to follow plant-based recipes

A guide to help you become healthier and happier

Cory Cooks

Unprofessional Cook | Professional Eater

ginger & chorizo

Macau | London | Berlin

Daily Vegan Meal

Plant-Based Recipes | For Health | For Environment | For Animals

Ellis Earthly Eats

Plant-Based Eating

The Friendly Cookie

LIVE FRIENDLY - EAT FRIENDLY

The Domestic Man

Gluten-free recipes, inspired by traditional & international cuisines. New recipes every Tuesday.

Live the Live ™

A rock jock’s adventures in food, travel and high-octane spirits.

deepfriedhoney

Simple, delicious recipes that probably remind you of your grandma's house if you're from the South.

Emily's Wholesome Kitchen

Real Food + Healthy Living

Aims Her Way

Aims To Cook, Recipes, Home Baker

Word To Your Mother

Not Just Another Mom Blog

fatFIRE Girl

Retired @ 39. Travel • Keto • Finance

24Bite™ Recipes

Because Kids Want To Cook Too

Fab Foodie Swede

Eat, Drink, Travel and Enjoy! Repeat!

Clean Eating All-Access

Just another WordPress site

%d bloggers like this: