Ham

Ham is a type of preserved meat made from pork. It has two types: a whole leg cut or mechanically-formed ham (don’t be alarmed – this simply means that food processors collect the scraps of shredded meat and put them together and they are still safe to eat). Processing pork to make ham has been practiced since ancient times. It is included in Cato the Elder’s work entitled De Agri Cultura from 160 BC. The real mystery even today is which civilization thought of it and practiced it first. This remains uncertain, and some historians believe this title belongs to the Chinese, while others think the citizens of Gaul did it first a region of Western Europe inhabited by Celtic tribes encompassing present-day France, Luxembourg, Belgium, most of Switzerland, parts of Northern Italy, the Netherlands, and the west bank of the Rhine in Germany. It is even possible many ancient communities were doing this simultaneously without copying it from others, simply because the basic idea behind making ham is preserving pork – a necessity every civilization faced as early as ancient times. 

Ham Trivia

  • Saltpeter, used in dry curing hams, has been used since the Middle Ages.
  • People during the 15th century started referring to the pork from the pig’s hind leg as ham.
  • The first canned ham was sold in 1926, made by Hormel Company based in Austin, Minnesota.
  • An epicure – one with sensitive and discriminating tastes especially in food – will go to the extent of observing which hind leg the pig uses to scratch itself, and then buys the one it seldom uses because the leg used for scratching will have tougher meat.
  • A sculpture of pop icon Madonna was made from 180 pounds of ham. The artist: Dwight Kalb from Chicago.

Ham Buying Guide

Here are some things to consider when buying a ham. If ham is the main course, each guest at the table will consume an estimate of 1/3 to 1/2 pound ham. If you know the number of people eating, you will have a good idea of how much ham to buy. If your budget can afford it, avoid canned hams or sliced hams in plastic packs and buy ham by the pound, ideally from a local delicatessen. Here is another thing to avoid as much as possible: a ham with added water or natural juices. This means brine, additives, and preservatives that affect the flavor of the ham, while preservatives are not good for your health. And if you are looking for the best flavor, buy bone-in ham. Finally, always make sure to read the label. Some hams are cooked so you just need to reheat it, while other hams are uncooked and require cooking, or else you will end up eating raw pork.

Ham Production & Farming in Texas

Hams are produced by preserving the meat (leg cut or mechanically-formed meat) either by wet curing or dry curing. Wet curing is done using a curing solution. The meat is either submerged in the solution or is injected with it. Wet curing requires the use of brine, which is usually a mix of salt and water. To add flavor, others add sugar, thyme, rosemary, or garlic, depending on the flavor they want to achieve. Dry curing is a method that requires the use of salt and other non-liquid curing ingredients like sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate. Dry curing can take as long as 30 days for larger meats.

Another component of making ham is smoking. The primary goal of smoking is to infuse smoky flavor into the meat. Some hams are smoked, while there are hams that did not undergo smoking. Smoking requires the use of a kiln or smoker or a smokehouse. The smoky flavor of the ham depends on what kind of wood was used during smoking. It could be oak, hickory, maple, or other types of wood ideal for smoking. 

Many established commercial ham-producing businesses in Texas sell locally-produced hams. There are also small, local businesses selling artisanal ham. In 2020, Texas made the front page because a Texas-based company was planning to produce jamón ibérico which should be exclusively produced in Spain and Portugal, protected by the privilege of the appellation. 

Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:

Preservatives such as sodium nitrite (E-250) and sodium nitrate (E-252) are used in dry-curing ham. Nitrates and nitrites protect consumers from botulism. It is also used to make the meat appear redder, as well as to improve the aroma of the ham. However, the danger posed by these inorganic compounds found in ham is the potential to cause cancer.

Other additives include the antioxidant sodium ascorbate (E-301), which is used to reduce the adverse effects produced by preservatives, and the acidulants trisodium citrate (E-331-iii), which is used to regulate the meat’s pH (acidity) and reinforce the role of antioxidants.

Geography

Ham is produced all around the world. Some hams have identities attached to their geographic roots, and the name or title is something other producers cannot use because it requires adhering to the unique way of making ham that gives it a distinct taste, flavor, and appearance.

Belgium
Jambon d’Ardenne – Wallonia

Bulgaria
Elenski but – Elena

China
Anfu ham- Jiangxi
Jinhua ham – Jinhua
Rugao ham – Rugao
Xuanwei ham – Xuanwei

Czech Republic
Pražká Šunka (“Prague Ham”) – Prague

Croatia
Pršut

France
Bayonne ham (Jambon de Bayonne) – Bayonne

Germany
Ammerländer Schinken – Ammerland
Schwarzwälder Schinken – Black Forest
Westfälischer Schinken – Westphalia

Italy
Prosciutto di Parma – Parma
San Daniele
Speck Alto Adige – South Tyrol
Vallée d’Aoste Jambon de Bosses – Saint-Rhémy-en-Bosses, Aosta Valley

Luxembourg
Éisleker ham – Oesling region

Montenegro
Njeguška pršuta – Njeguši, Montenegro

Portugal
Fiambre
Presunto
Jamón Ibérico

Slovenia
Kraški pršut

Spain
Jamón serrano
Jamón Ibérico, (made from the Black Iberian pig breeds)
Lacón Gallego, from Galicia

United Kingdom
Wiltshire cure ham
York ham

United States
Smithfield ham – Smithfield, Virginia

Packaging:

Fresh ham from the deli is usually wrapped in butcher paper packaging. Ham is also sold wrapped in stockinette. A tray is used for sliced ham sold in smaller quantities, covered with sealed plastic wrap. Ham sold in the frozen section of the supermarket or grocery is sold in a sealed plastic pack that is compatible with a thermoforming machine for a modified atmosphere or vacuum options during packing. There is also ham sold in cans in the canned goods section of the grocery or supermarket. 

The label is important in the packaging of the ham. For one, it indicates the ingredients found in the product – some contain only cured ham, while others are sold with brine, water, or natural juices in them. The label also informs the consumers what preservatives or additives are present in the food.

Eating Hams

Ham is sliced into smaller, thinner slices and used as filling for sandwiches. Ham and ham and cheese sandwiches are very popular sandwiches. Ham is also a popular pizza topping. Ham and eggs is a popular breakfast Christmas ham is a traditional Christmas food served during Christmas eve dinner.

Because of the carcinogenic nature of ham preservatives used in curing, eating hams in excess can cause cancer.

 Storage:

Make sure that the temperature where ham is stored is not in the 40°F and 140°F range because this is the temperature where bacteria grows quickly. You can store fresh ham and cured ham in the refrigerator. How long it will keep depends on what type of ham it is, and how fresh the ham was when you bought it, as well as other factors. Leftover ham should be refrigerated immediately. Wrap it in butcher paper. If you are not cooking ham in the next four days, it is best to put it in the freezer. For more specific instructions, refer to the details below:

  • Uncooked ham will keep in the refrigerator for 7 days or until the best-before date. In the freezer, this will keep for 3 to 4 months. Uncooked ham that you’ve already cooked will keep for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator and 1-2 months in the freezer.
  • For unopened fully-cooked vacuum-sealed at the plant, this will keep in the refrigerator until the expiration date. In the freezer, this will keep for 2 months. If opened, this will keep in the refrigerator for 5 days and 1-2 months in the freezer.
  • For fully-cooked store-wrapped ham, refrigerate for no more than 7 days, while half ham and ham slices will keep for 5 days max. All three types will keep for 1-2 months in the freezer.
  • You can refrigerate uncooked country ham (uncut) for a year, while cut ham for 3 months or 1 month in the freezer. Cooked country ham can be stored in the refrigerator for 7 days max or 1 month in the freezer. 
  • Do not freeze unopened canned ham that requires refrigeration. Refrigerate it and it will keep for 9 months. Opened canned ham can stay in the fridge for 7 days max or 1-2 months in the freezer. Shelf-stable canned ham, if unopened, can be stored in the fridge where it will keep for 2 years. Once it is opened, you can store it but for 4 days only in the fridge and 2 months in the freezer.
  • Uncooked fresh ham will keep in the fridge for 5 days or 6 months. Cooked fresh ham will keep in the fridge for 4 days or 4 months in the freezer.

Make your own ham and cheese sandwich

Ham and cheese sandwich is a classic. It is easy to make – 5 minutes of prep time and 15 minutes of cooking time – especially if you need to make food in a hurry. It is even recommended that you make a ham and cheese sandwich, especially after holiday feasts when there is leftover ham in the refrigerator, to make sure it does not go to waste. It does not require a lot of ingredients and most people eat a ham and cheese sandwich, so it is a safe food to make that people will eat and enjoy. Kids love these as well as adults. It is filling and gives you the energy and nutrition you need. 

 Yield: 

This recipe yields 2 servings.

Ingredients:

  • Ham, 6 slices
  • Cheese, 6 slices
  • Bread, 4 slices
  • Dill pickle, 8 pieces
  • Honey, 2 tablespoon
  • Mayonnaise, 2 tablespoon
  • Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoon

Method

Step 1. Mix mustard and honey.
Step 2. Spread mayonnaise on the bread.
Step 3. Spread the mustard-honey mix on two pieces of bread opposite the side with mayonnaise.
Step 4. Put three slices of cheese and three slices of ham per sandwich.
Step 5. Put 4 dill pickles each.
Step 6. Toast the sandwich using a large skillet over medium heat. Do both sides.

Nutrition

DV%

  • Serving Size: 1 Serving
  • Calories: 122 6%
  • Carbs: 7.3g 2%
  • Sugar: 0g 0
  • Fiber: 0g 0%
  • Protein: 17.9g 36%
  • Fat: 2.4g 4%
  • Saturated Fat: 1.2g 6%
  • Trans Fat 0g 0%
  • Cholesterol 22g 7%
  • Sodium 900mg 38%
  • Vitamin C 0.6mg 1%
  • Vitamin A 0.0IU 0%
  • Calcium 6mg 1%
  • Iron 0.4mg 2%
  • Potassium 165mg 5%
  • Vitamin B12 0.4mcg 6%
  • Vitamin B6 0.2mg 12%
  • Niacin 2.3mg 11%
  • Folate 2mcg 0%
  • Magnesium 8mg 2%
  • Phosphorus 384mg 38%
  • Zinc 0.9mg 6%

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