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April 2015


Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Meat & Poultry

Types Of Ham

A Glossary

 

The ham comes from the back legs of the pig: It comprises the thigh and rear end of the pig. The bone is often left in, which adds flavor and includes the rump (the upper portion), the center and the shank (the lower portion). The upper part of the leg (above the knee) is called shank end; the bottom of the leg produces trotters. Ham can be cured or fresh. Different countries use different methods of curing and cooking the ham, as you’ll see in the hams below. Check out the history of pork and see our many other food glossaries, including our Pork Cuts Glossary.

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Ham is made from the back let of the pig. Chart courtesy TheHealthyButcher.com.

 

AUSTRIAN HAM
A style where selected lean ham pieces are place in a large casing, then baked and smoked.

BAKED HAM
According to federal regulations, baked ham is a ham “cooked by direct action of dry heat and reaches an internal temperature of 170°F.

BAYONNE HAM
A boneless, dry-cured ham from France. It is salted and air-dried for six months in the Pyrenees and the south of France. It is named after the port city of Bayonne in southwestern France

 
Bayonne ham (jamon bayonne), sometimes called the “French prosciutto.” Photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese.

 

BLACK FOREST HAM
A round, boneless, dry-cured ham initially soaked in caramel to encourage the development of a dark surface. It is cooked with a heavy smoke from pine or fir branches.

BOILED HAM or COOKIED HAM
Called cooked ham by the USDA), boiled ham is a bland, non-smoked ham that is cooked by steaming or immersing in hot water. It is generally used as a luncheon meat.

COUNTRY HAM

A dry-cured specialty ham originated in the southeastern U.S. Different regions use different recipes, but most are salty and smoky, with flavors of hickory, honey or maple.

 
Black forest ham with its signature dark surface. Photo courtesy North Country Smokehouse.

 

HAM HOCK
The ham hock is not a type of ham, the joint between the tibia/fibula and the part of foot where it is attached to the pig’s leg. This cut generally has too much skin and gristle to be eaten directly. Instead, it is often cooked with greens and other vegetables, or in soups, to provide a smoky pork flavor. Try it in this delicious recipe for barbecue pork butt (pulled pork).

 

HICKORY SMOKED HAM

A ham that gets a distinctive hickory flavor from smoking over hickory chips. Lesser hams use liquid smoke.

HONEY- OR MAPLE-CURED HAM

A ham cured with honey or maple syrup instead of sugar.

JAMBON BAYONNE

See Bayonne ham, above.

 

JAMÓN IBÉRICO or JAMÓN DE PATA NEGRA
Jamón ibérico de campo (jamón ibérico for short) is also known as jamón de pata Negra, of the the black-hoof, named adter the black-hoofed Iberian pig (cerdo ibéric). There are three grades of jamón ibérico: pasture- and grain-fed jamón ibérico de campo; jamón ibérico de recebo, which is acorn, pasture and corn-fed; and jamón ibérico de bellota, free-range and acorn-foraging, which can cost twice as much as a jamón ibérico de recebo. The ham is dry-cured for 24 months and the product is a great luxury: The jamón ibérico de campo costs about $89.00 a pound, or $800 for a 9-pound boneless ham. This is the ham commonly served at tapas bars (and now you know why those slices are so thin!).

 
Black-hoofed pata negra. Photo courtesy Cinco Jotas.

Pata negra only accounts for about 5% of total ham production in Spain. The best pigs are fattened (finished) by rooting free-range on acorns, in the groves along the southern border between Spain and Portugal. This is the famous (and famously expensive) jamón ibérico de bellota (acorn-fed ). The physical activity in the forest creates a highly marbled meat with rich, golden fat that is full of antioxidants. This ham is cured for 36 months—a very long time enabled by the high fat content and the antioxidant quality of the diet. Jamón ibérico de campo and jamón ibérico de recebo are still excellent hams, but not as spectacular as the bellota ham. Enjoy it is a first course with a side of warm toast. Read more about jamón ibérico. Also see ibérico pig and pata negra.

 

PARMA HAM or PROSCIUTTO

Prosciutto is the Italian word for ham. The term prosciutto is almost always used for a dry-cured ham that is usually sliced thinly and served uncooked; this style is called prosciutto crudo in Italian and is distinguished from cooked ham, prosciutto cotto. The finest prosciuttos are PDO-protected: Prosciutto di Parma (Parma ham) is from the Parma region of Italy. They are considered “sweet” (not too salty). They are aged for 400 days, cured with salt only (hence the delicate pink color). Most prosciutto is pressed by a machine to achieve the flat shape. Prosciutto San Daniele, whish is also PDO-protected, is made in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region of Italy. See the differences between prosciutto and serrano hams, below.

 
Prosciutto de Parma. Photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese.

The word prosciutto derives from Latin pro (before) and exsuctus (past participle of exsugere “to suck out”), and refers to the sucking out of the moisture in the ham by the mountain winds, which whipped through the sheds where the hams were hanging. The modern Italian verb prosciugare  means “to dry thoroughly.”

 

SERRANO HAM

Serrano ham is a dry-cured Spanish ham which is generally served in thin slices, similar to the French jambon bayonne and Italian prosciutto crudo. See the differences between prosciutto and serrano hams, below.

 

SPECK

Speck is a lightly smoked, dry-cured boned ham. The finest is a PDO-protected Speck Alto Aldige, from the north of Italy. Here’s more about it, and a comparison of prosciutto and speck.

 

 
Speck Alto Aldige, a PDO-protected artisan product. Photo by F.P. Wing | IST.

TASSO HAM

Tasso, a Creole specialty, is not exactly ham. It is not made from the hind leg of the pig, but from the pork butt. The butt is dredged in a salt cure for a few hours, then rinsed, rubbed with a hot spice mixture containing cayenne pepper and garlic, and then hot-smoked. It can be eaten on its own, but is more often used to add flavor to stews, braises, and in dishes ranging from pasta to crab cakes to soup and gravy. It’s a “must” in jambalaya.

 

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Tasso ham. Photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese.

 

THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PROSCIUTTO & SERRANO HAMS

Both prosciutto and Serrano hams are dry-cured: salted and hung in sheds to cure in the air. Both are served in very thin slices. Country ham, preferred in the U.S., is smoked, and a very different stye from dry-cured hams.

While prosciutto and Serrano hams can be used interchangeably in recipes, they are different.

  • They are made from different breeds of pigs: Prosciutto can be made from pig or wild boar, whereas Serrano is typically made from a breed of white pig.
  • The diets of the pigs differ. Parma pigs eat the local chestnuts, and are also fed the whey by-product of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
  • Prosciutto, from Italy, is cured for 10-12 months with a coating of lard. Serrano, from Spain, can be cured for up to 18 months (and at the high end, for 24 months). The differing times and microclimates affect the amount of wind that dries the hams, and thus the character of the final products. '
  • Italian-made prosciutto is never made with nitrates. American made prosciutto, as well as both domestic and Spanish Serrano-style hams, can have added nitrates.
  • Prosciutto is considered more salty and fatty. Serrano is considered more flavorful and less fatty

 

 

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