Lunch Meat of the Week – Ham

October 18, 2018 at 5:03 AM | Posted in Lunch Meat of the Week | Leave a comment
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Half ham

Ham is pork from a leg cut that has been preserved by wet or dry curing, with or without smoking. As a processed meat, the term “ham” includes both whole cuts of meat and ones that have been mechanically formed.

Ham is made around the world, including a number of highly coveted regional specialties, such as Westphalian ham and some varieties of Spanish jamón. In addition, numerous ham products have specific geographical naming protection, such as Prosciutto di Parma and Prosciutto Toscano in Europe, and Smithfield ham in the US.

The preserving of pork leg as ham has a long history, with Cato the Elder writing about the “salting of hams” in his De Agri Cultura tome around 160 BC.

There are claims that the Chinese were the first people to mention the production of cured ham. Larousse

Typical slice of ham

Gastronomique claims an origin from Gaul. It was certainly well established by the Roman period, as evidenced by an import trade from Gaul mentioned by Marcus Terentius Varro in his writings.

The modern word “ham” is derived from the Old English ham or hom meaning the hollow or bend of the knee, from a Germanic base where it meant “crooked”. It began to refer to the cut of pork derived from the hind leg of a pig around the 15th century.

Because of the preservation process, ham is a compound foodstuff or ingredient, being made up of the original meat, as well as the remnants of the preserving agent(s), such as salt, but it is still recognised as a food in its own right.

Hams aging in an atmospherically controlled storage room

Ham is produced by curing raw pork by salting, also known as dry curing, or brining, also known as wet curing. Additionally smoking may be employed. Besides salt, several ingredients may be used to obtain flavoring and preservation, from black pepper (e.g. Prosciutto Toscano) to saffron (e.g. the “Zafferano di San Gimignano”).

Ham is typically used in its sliced form, often as a filling for sandwiches and similar foods, such as in the ham sandwich and ham and cheese sandwich. Other variations include toasted sandwiches such as the croque-monsieur and the Cubano. It is also a popular topping for pizza in the United States.

Antipasto with ham and sausage

In the United Kingdom, a pork leg cut, either whole or sliced, that has been cured but requires additional cooking is known as gammon. Gammons were traditional cured before being cut from a side of pork along with bacon. When cooked, gammon is ham. Such roasts are a traditional part of British Christmas dinners.

 

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