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.
- 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.