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Ham is the thigh and rump of pork, cut from the haunch of a pig or boar. Although it may be cooked and served fresh, most ham is cured in some fashion. Cuts referred to as 'ham' in the US are called 'gammon' in the UK and Ireland.
Ham can be dry-cured or wet-cured. A dry-cured ham has been rubbed in a mixture containing salt and a variety of other ingredients (usually various proportions of sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite). This is followed by a period of drying and aging. Dry-cured hams may require a period of re-hydration prior to consumption. A wet-cured ham has been cured with brine, either by immersion or injection. The distinction between wet and dry cure is not always clear cut as some ham curing methods begin wet but are followed by dry ageing.
Dry-cured varieties include Italian prosciutto (prosciutto di Parma, prosciutto di San Daniele, prosciutto di Carpegna, prosciutto di Modena, prosciutto Toscano, prosciutto Veneto Berico-Euganeo, Valle d’Aosta Jambon de Bosses, prosciutto di Norcia) and the Spanish jamon serrano and jamón ibérico. The United States has country ham (including Virginia ham), which might or might not be smoked. England has York ham. Germany's Westphalian ham is usually smoked over juniper, in Belgium there is the smoked Ardennes ham, and from China there is the unsmoked Jinhua ham. In Bulgaria, the specific Elenski but is produced. From Iran, we get the dry-cured Zard Kūh ham.
Ham is also processed into other meat products such as Spam (luncheon meat). Also, a processed form of ham is commonly sold in tins or 'cans'.
Bayonne Ham or Bayonne is an air dried salted ham that takes its name from the ancient port city of Bayonne in the far South West of France (Le Pays Basque or the Basque country).
Jambon de Paris is a wet-cured, boneless ham and baked in shape. The ham is a superior quality product prepared from fresh, unfrozen pork thighs without adding polyphosphates.
- Black Forest ham, known as Schwarzwälderschinken, is from the Black Forest region of Germany. It is seasoned, dry cured, then smoked over sawdust and fir brush.
- Westphalian ham is created from pigs raised in the Westphalian Forest which feed on acorns. The resulting meat is dry cured and then smoked over a mixture of beechwood and juniper branches.
In Italy, ham is called prosciutto, and can be either raw (prosciutto crudo) or cooked (prosciutto cotto).
Parma ham, the so called Prosciutto di Parma, has almost 200 producers concentrated in the eastern part of Parma Province. Its production is regulated by a quality consortium that recognizes qualifying products with a distinctive mark. Only larger fresh hams are used (12-13 kilograms). Curing uses relatively little salt, but can include garlic salt and sugar thus producing a sweeter meat. After salting, the meat is sealed with pig fat over the exposed muscle tissue which slows drying. Curing occurs over a minimum of 12 months. This curing method uses only salt, without nitrates and without spices. No conserving substances are added. San Daniele ham (Prosciutto di San Daniele) is the most similar to Parma ham, especially regarding the low quantity of salt added to the meat, and is the most prized variety. Other raw hams include the so- called "nostrani" or "nazionali" or "toscani"; they are more strongly flavoured and are produced using a higher quantity of salt.
In Portugal, besides several varieties of wet-cured hams called fiambre (not to be confused with the Guatemalan dish, also called fiambre), the most important type of ham is presunto, a dry-cured ham similar to Spanish jamón and Italian prosciutto. There is a wide variety of presuntos in Portugal; among the most famous are presunto from Chaves and presunto from Alentejo (made from the haunches of black Iberian pigs).
In Romania, ham is called şuncă/şonc/jambon. Usually dry cured, always with granular salt, in Transylvania and Banat, paprika might be added. This is because of a tradition dating back to 30 AD. The Romanians considered it an offering of peace to their gods to preserve ham in the cleanest way possible. To let ham or any meat go wasted was considered a severe insult to the gods.
One of the more exacting ham regulatory practices can be found in Spain, where ham is called Jamón. Not only are hams classified according to their preparation, but the pre-slaughter diet and region of preparation are also considered important. Spanish regulators recognize three types of Iberico ham qualities:
- Cebo or Campo where hogs are fed only on commercial feed.
- Recebo - hogs are raised on commercial feed and fed acorns for the last few months of their lives.
- Bellota hogs are fed a diet almost exclusively of acorns (bellotas).
The regional appellations of Spanish ham include the following:
- Los Pedroches DOP, from Córdoba (Andalusia).
- Huelva, a full-flavoured ham made in Huelva (Andalusia).
- Jabugo with Spanish Denomination of Origin, a small village in Huelva bearing Spain's largest high quality ham industry.
- Guijuelo, Gredos and Béjar, from Salamanca (Castile).
- Dehesa de Extremadura, made in Cáceres and Badajoz.
- Cured ham of Trevélez, cured at least 1,200 meters above sea level. Cured hams from Trevélez are noted as being among the “sweetest” cured hams due to the low degree of salting necessary for the drying and maturing processes to succeed properly. This is caused by the north winds coming from the high tips of the Sierra Nevada.
- Teruel, cured at least 800 meters above sea level, with a minimum of a year of curing and aging.
- Lacón Gallego, a dried ham from Galicia
In the United States, ham is regulated primarily on the basis of its cure and water content. The USDA recognizes the following categories:
Fresh ham is an uncured hind leg of pork. Country Ham is uncooked, cured, dried, smoked-or-unsmoked, made from a single piece of meat from the hind leg of a hog or from a single piece of meat from a pork shoulder. Smithfield ham, a country ham, must be grown and produced in or around Smithfield, Virginia, to be sold as such.
Sugar is common in many dry cures in the United States. The majority of common wet-cured ham available in U.S. supermarkets is of the "city ham" variety, in which brine is injected into the meat for a very rapid curing suitable for mass market. Traditional wet curing requires immersing the ham in brine for an extended period, often followed by light smoking. Traditional wet cured ham includes the English Wiltshire ham and the French Jambon de Paris.
Turkey ham, a boneless product made from pressed dark meat, is a popular low-fat alternative to traditional ham in the US.
Gailtaler Speck is a type of Austrian ham with g.g.A. protection. Pigs of the following breeds are used to produce Gailtaler Speck: Landrace, large white, cross-breeds from Landrace and large white, Duroc, cross-breeds from approved Carinthian breeding programmes. The pigs must be fattened under the conditions specified in the production guidelines for Gailtaler Speck. Fresh pork with a maximum pH value of 5.8 is used to produce Gailtaler Speck. The whole sides of bacon are used, and if necessary the individual parts of a side: belly, loin, loin belly, leg and shoulder. Gailtaler Speck is marinated, cold cured and matured in special ripening rooms.
The external colour of Gailtaler Speck is golden yellow, the cut is bright red with a white fat portion. Gailtaler Speck has a well developed, cured, smoky and meaty taste, which is only slightly spicy and mildly salty. Of firm consistency, it is tender to bite and dissolves softly on the tongue.
The production area comprises the municipalities Kötschach-Mauthen, Dellach, Kirchbach, Gitschtal, Hermagor, St. Stefan im Gailtal, Nötsch im Gailtal, Feistritz an der Gail and Hohenthurn. The pigs which are used to produce Gailtaler Speck originate from the Gail valley and, if necessary, from other regions of the Land Carinthia.
In the past, the main reason for producing bacon was so that meat could be kept for a long time. Gailtaler Speck developed into a widely known and regionally distinctive product through the special climate-based maturing conditions, the exclusive use of pigs grown slowly and fattened on high-quality feed, and the use of traditional production methods and handed-down recipes. Experience historically handed down from one generation to the next determines the length of each stage in turning fresh pork into a culinary high-quality processed product. The producers' knowledge and experience concerning seasonal and climatic variations in production conditions enable them to optimise the timing of production. The key to this optimal and, within Carinthia at least, unique bacon production is to utilise the Gail valley's specific climatic conditions: steady temperature and humidity, long hours of sunshine, limited fog formation in winter and clearing southerly winds. Stable air movement and only slight variations in temperature and humidity enable the product to dry evenly. The slow maturing process gives the bacon its special aroma and means that it can be kept for a long time.
The production of bacon in the Gail valley area has been documented from as long ago as the fifteenth century. Travel reports, farm inventories and servants' food lists testify to bacon's importance in the diet of the Gail valley's inhabitants. That importance was attained particularly because smoking and air-drying enabled it to be kept for long periods.
The method of production is recorded in the Gailtaler Speck guidelines. The guidelines govern the basic products' origin and quality and the production process, define the product characteristics and contain provisions on safeguarding quality, whereby all producers of Gailtaler Speck are responsible for ensuring complete verifiability. The cuts, whose pH value must not exceed 5.8, are marinated in an unpressed state by means of a dry curing process during which cooking or curing salt, pepper, garlic and other spices and herbs are added in accordance with traditional recipes which have been handed down. This extracts water from the meat and inhibits the growth of harmful micro-organisms. Marination takes place, preferably on traditional wooden marination tables or in curing tubs made of plastic or high-grade steel, at 4C to 0C and approximately 70 % humidity for one to four weeks. The marinated material is then hung up until completely dry. The dry marinated material is hung in the curing chamber, where it is cured at temperatures not exceeding 22C. The only fuel used is beech wood, to which juniper twigs are added to obtain the distinctive smoke aroma. The curing process is interrupted several times by letting in fresh air to give the bacon its special aroma. Each producer's experience and acquired skill determine the exact juncture at which fresh air is let in and the exact length of each curing interval. After the curing process, the bacon is taken to the ripening room, where temperatures of 8C to 16C and relative humidity of 60 % to 80 % must be maintained. Depending on the cuts used, it remains there for four to 12 weeks to mature fully. At 25 % fat content, dehydration leads to 30 % to 40 % of fresh weight being lost.
Reference: The European Commission
- loin and best end of neck
Tiroler Speck is lightly salted, spiced with a special mixture in line with local customs and traditions, stored in special rooms at between 18C and 20C and exposed to aromatic smoke. The outer colour is smoky brown; when cut the speck is reddish in colour with a white layer of back fat. Its odour is lightly aromatic with a clearly distinguishable hint of smoke. The taste is spicy, characterised by the special spice mixtures and a particular smoking process, and only slightly salty.
Tiroler Speck may only be produced by authorized commercial and agricultural producers or processors in the Austrian Federal State of Tyrol. Over many generations the production of Tiroler Speck became a traditional method of processing meat in the largely rural, mountainous region of Tyrol where there was no possibility of cooling fresh meat. The dry curing in pure mountain air, an essential part of the process, and the careful smoking using special spice mixtures and beech and ash wood give Tiroler Speck its typical characteristics. Recipes for the spice mixtures and the method of producing Tiroler Speck were handed down from the farmers to their children. This individual handed-down tradition developed into a general business practice for the commercial production of Tiroler Speck that exists today. Many generations have held it in high esteem on account of its high nutritional value, long life and the variety of uses to which it can be put.
Tyroler Speck has been an essential ingredient in local rural cuisine for hundreds of years. The age-old tradition of speck in Tyrol is documented. One of things mentioned by Nikolaus Graff and Hermann Holzmann in their book "Geschichte des Tiroler Metzgerhandwerkes" (History of the butcher's art in Tyrol) (Universitätsverlag Wagner 1982) is the setting of prices for a pound of speck, together with pork sausages, on 23 July 1573. Other parts of the book provide further evidence of the importance of speck in Tyrolean culinary tradition. For example, there is a report of large pieces of pork being bought at market and processed into speck for the private sector. "Most of the pig was salted, then cured and was served throughout the year in the form of speck and cured meat."
The following criteria must be observed when processing the cuts:
- All cuts being processed into Tiroler Speck must be trimmed in the traditional manner;
- smoking and the concomitant drying process is to take place at a maximum smoke and room temperature of I0C;
- air curing and maturing must be done at a room temperature of between 10C and 15C and a relative humidity of 60% to 80%. Adequate air circulation must be ensured;
- drying and maturing must be uniform so as to prevent the forming of a dry rind; the products must be kept free of parasites and noxious organisms;
- the cuts mentioned must not be injection cured or tumbled;
Reference: The European Commission
Jambon d'Ardenne is an IGP/BGA Belgian ham obtained from a pig's hind leg, by dry salting, rubbing with salt or immersion in salt water, maturing in cold storage, smoking being optional but using wood or sawdust to the exclusion of wood and sawdust from coniferous trees and recycled wood, with the minimum production time depending on the type of product.
The ham must be produced in the Belgian Province of Luxembourg or in certain districts bordering on the Provinces of Liège and Namur. The natural factors are fundamental in the case of Jambon d'Ardenne. It has been observed that the maturing and drying of the green hams are linked to the conditions of the microclimate of the Ardennes. They give the dry ham its highly typical characteristics. The seasonal phenomena of temperature, humidity and circulation of fresh, humid air are conditions for harmonious maturing and drying. The human factors represent the tradition component. They are defined as conditions of production which are linked to local, fair and constant customs. The designation of origin invokes biological phenomena which we cannot control. The methods of producing the ham have been adapted to these natural conditions over time to make the very specific product, Jambon d'Ardenne.
In the old days in the Ardennes, pigs provided the only source of meat for consumption, usually in cured form. Ham has always been thought to be the choicest part, and that of the Ardennes has always been associated with festivities there. Ham was served to travellers all over the Ardennes, to the extent that narrators at the beginning of the 19th century ended up complaining about it, as shown by their books. Public or private collections of menus would almost always mention Jambon d'Ardenne. In the Ardennes, this custom, which is still very much alive today, was the rule.
Surveys conducted in recent years confirm that a well-assured reputation continues. This reputation naturally led to fraud by producers from outside the Ardennes. Enthusiasts, as well as the manufacturers, called for regulations to ensure the quality, prevent imitations and avoid the designation falling into the public domain. The specific nature of Jambon d’Ardenne was recognized by Belgian legislation: Royal Decree of 4.2.1974. This made the production methods used in the Ardennes into a legal requirement and defined the territory in which production could be carried out. The ham must be salted, matured and smoked in the Ardennes.
Reference: The European Commission
Salaisons fumées, marque nationale grand-duché de Luxembourg
Salaisons fumées, marque nationale grand-duché de Luxembourg is a BGA ham from Luxembourg. The legs of pork used in the manufacture of ham must be covered by the Luxembourg national brand for pig meat or an equivalent foreign designation. The ham differs from other hams in particular through its long curing period (at least 10 months). Due to this long period, to moderate curing and to a mixture obtained exclusively using the wood of broad-leaved trees, a typical taste and flavour develop which characterise Luxembourg ham. The hams are marketed as whole hams.
The quality and specific character are essentially due to the rigorous selection of the raw material and to the traditional method of manufacture, which is under State supervision. Over the years, these factors have led to a high reputation among consumers. The production area is the territory of the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg
Luxembourg is part of the French Moselle area where ham is traditionally cured and smoked in the form of whole ham comprising the knuckle and bones. The designation "Salaisons fumées de la Marque Nationale Luxembourgeoises" was created by the amended Regulation of the Government in Council of 9 February 1990 creating a national brand for smoked cured meat and laying down the conditions for the award of this brand, and by the Ministerial Regulation of 7 March 1990 laying down certain detailed rules of application . The product is obtained by a non-industrial method; there are some 20 butchers/pork butchers who have undertaken to comply with the requirements of the legislative texts. Ten months after the curing date, the hams are examined by an inspector and, before being placed on the market, are branded with a special stamp. Curing takes place throughout the year, although to a greater extent during the autumn and winter months.
Reference:The European Commission
How much does one cup of ham weigh?
Estimated US cup to weight equivalents:
|Ham||cooked - chopped/diced/shredded||
|150 grams||> 5 ounces|
Every ingredient has a cups to ounces or grams conversion table. Search for the ingredient, cup to weight conversions are at the end of each ingredient page.