There is so much to love about ham. You can eat it cold, hot, smoked, or cured. The options are limitless when it comes to ham selection. Check out this article to find out all the details about the different types of ham from which you can choose.
While just about everyone loves ham, it is not always easy to decide what type of ham to eat. It is a go-to item during the holidays and other family events. There are several ways you can prepare a ham, which include curing, smoking, and aging. These preparations all have a different impact on the taste of the ham. When you are looking for the perfect preparation, it is helpful to know the different types of ham to pick the right one.
Table of Contents
- What is Ham?
- Criteria for Choosing Ham
- Shank End vs. Butt End
- Bone-In Ham vs. Boneless Ham
- Different Types of Ham
What is Ham?
All ham is meat that begins as a cut of roast from the back leg of a hog. The back leg is the area from which fresh ham comes. Before it has any preparation, it is similar to all pork roast. For one to consider a piece of meat ham, it must be smoked, cured, cooked, or aged.
Criteria for Choosing Ham
When you are looking for the correct type of ham, there are specific criteria in which you should be interested.
A ham is sold either bone-in, boneless, or partially boned. The shank part of the ham has more fat. The butt part is easier to slice because it is leaner.
Ham is always cured if it is not fresh. When it is a cured meat, it can be brine-cured, which is a wet cure or a dry cured ham. When the ham is brine-cured, it is soaked in a mixture of liquid and salt before it is smoked. Brine-cured is the most common way you will find ham. Dry-cured ham is when the meat surface is covered completely with salt and store until the salt soaks into the meat, which also preserves it.
The ham may be uncooked, fully cooked, or partially cooked. When you have a fully cooked ham, the ham is heated until the internal temperature is 148 degrees Fahrenheit. When the ham is partially cooked, the temperature gets to 137 degrees Fahrenheit. If the ham is partially or uncooked ham, it must be baked before it can be eaten. If it is fully cooked, you only have to warm it first.
A smoked ham is smoked for days or weeks at a temperature that is under 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
When the ham has a deep flavor, it is heavily cured, smoked, and hung for one to seven years. They become covered mold that must be scraped and washed before you can eat it. This type of ham is often expensive and has a strong flavor.
Shank End vs. Butt End
The shank end ham comes from the lower part of the hog’s leg. When you think of a traditional ham on your table, it is most likely the shank end you are seeing. This is what you consider your holiday ham. You may have a spiral sliced ham. This meat is fatty and not as tender as the butt end. The shank end is a nice-looking cut of meat and big enough to feed an entire family. Some use a shank end cut of ham as a centerpiece for their meal. The butt end of the hog is leaner and easy to carve. It only has one bone.
Bone-In Ham vs. Boneless Ham
You have no doubt heard the terms boneless or bone-in when talking about ham. A bone-in ham is moister and gives you a rich flavor that comes from having the bone still in the meat. Keeping the bone in the ham does make it more difficult to carve. The bone can be used to add flavor to a soup, collard greens, and other foods.
A boneless ham is easy to carve because there is no bone to worry about. You are able to cut it uniformly. A boneless ham has been processed, which takes away some of the flavors. The better quality the boneless ham is means, the more flavor it will have.
There is also a bone removed ham. A bone removed ham gives you the benefit of no bone for carving purposes. The downside is you get more fat and marbling in the ham, similar to a bone-in ham. Bone removed is an option for those that cannot decide between bone-in or boneless.
Different Types of Ham
A Bayonne ham is a boneless French ham that is salty. It is salted and then dried for six months. This ham is named for the city Bayonne which is a port city in France. It tastes best sliced on buttered bread.
Black Forest Ham
This ham is named from an area in Germany. It was first produced in Germany. The outside of this ham is blackened. It is a boneless ham that is seasoned with juniper berries, pepper, garlic, coriander and salted before it is cured and then cold smoked.
This smoked meat is pre-cooked. It is a lean cut from the loin and not the rump or leg. Canadian bacon is more like ham than bacon, despite its name. It is typically served for breakfast and fried in a skillet.
Capicola is an Italian cured ham much like Prosciutto. Capicola is made from pork shoulder or neck. Prosciutto is made from the thighs or buttocks.
City ham is a wet cured ham and typically smoked. City ham is the ham that you are most likely to find at the grocery store. These types of hams may be referred to as supermarket hams. They are pre-cooked, and all you have to do is heat them at a low temperature. You can eat city ham cold, if you prefer, or cook it in a skillet.
This ham is not smoked with a bland flavor. It is usually boiled or steamed. Cooked ham is most likely the ham you will get when you are eating lunch meat.
Country ham is popular in the south. For ham to qualify as a country ham, it must be dried, cured, and aged for a minimum of 70 days. This ham uses salt to dry cure it. It is smoked on fragrant hardwood and aged for six months. These hams are not cooked but can be eaten because they are preserved. A country ham tastes salty and has a dry texture. If you plan to cook a country ham, you should soak it for four to 24 hours. Soaking the ham allows you to remove the salt while adding moisture.
Culatello is an Italian cured ham that is most likely found in an antipasto. This ham is soaked in wine while it is aging. It has a clean flavor. It is a lean cut of meat.
You must cook this type of ham before eating it. It may be smoked or not. It is most popular in Great Britain.
This type of ham may also be called maple ham. It is well cured and uses a sweeter that at least half of it consists of maple syrup or honey. This usually creates a glaze on the ham. These hams have a savory taste to them. You mostly find them pre-cooked, but you will need to reheat them.
This ham is a product of Belfast, Ireland, an area that is famous for brining or pickling hams. They have a unique flavor because they are smoked over a peat fire. Before they are eaten, they are soaked, scrubbed, simmered, and baked.
This ham is also referred to as jamon de plata negra. It may also be called Iberico ham ot Iberian ham. It comes from Spain, and it is considered a luxury. There are three different grades of this ham. The higher the grade of ham means the higher price you pay. Jamon is dry-cured for about two years, which gives it a nutty but sweet taste.
This ham comes from the upper part of the foreleg of the hog. This part of the leg includes the shoulder. Technically, it is not truly ham because of the location of part of the hog from which it comes. It is not as tender but inexpensive. You will find it smoked or fresh. This is an uncured ham.
Prosciutto is an Italian ham. The word Prosciutto means ham. It is seasoned, salt-cured, air-dried, then pressed to create a firm and dense texture. This ham is not smoked. The truest of prosciutto comes from the Parma region. It is called Prosciutto di Parma. Typically, this meat is added to a meal or added at the end of something that is being cooked. You will find this ham in thin slices.
This ham was initially made in Scotland. This ham is not cooked, boneless, and cured mildly. This ham is also sold in casings.
Serrano ham is a Spanish ham that is thinly sliced for serving. It has a strong flavor.
Smithfield is a specific type of aged country ham. It can only carry the label Smithfield if it is cured in the city limits of Smithfield, Virginia. You may also refer to it as Virginia ham. It must be cured in a specific way. The meat of the ham is a deep red. It has a salty taste. Smithfield ham tends to be an expensive type of ham and must be cooked slowly over a long period of time before you can eat it. You will not have any leftover ham of this type.
Speck is an Italian ham that is cured similarly to Prosciutto. After curing, it is lightly smoked. It comes from the thigh of a hog after it has been deboned. It is mass-produced. You can also find speck alto Aldige, which is a specialty item that is a PDO-protected variety of Speck from Northern Italy. Protected designation of origin (PDO) means it is produced, processed, and prepared in a specific area with the knowledge of the locals and local ingredients.
This ham comes from pigs that eat acorns from the Westphalia forest in Germany. Westphalian Ham is considered a prized ham that is cured and smoked slowly over juniper wood and beechwood. This dense ham is dark brown and has a light smoky flavor.
This mild ham is from England. It has delicate pink meat, and you must cook it before eating. You often serve York ham with a Madeira sauce.