If you love meat, you most probably know what ham is. This pork leg cut has been preserved by wet or dry curing and can be with or without smoking. Thus, ham can be eaten in several ways, either cold, hot, smoked, or cured. The selections of ham can be overwhelming and ways to prepare them are also limitless.
Before serving, hams are usually cut into thin slices and drizzled with some type of sauce. Knowing the different types of ham place an integral part on how you can prepare savory ham recipes properly. Let us get to know the different types of ham and their characteristics by reading further.
Different Types of Ham
If you prefer boneless ham varieties, Bayonne ham is a considerable option. Named after the city of Bayonne, a port city located in France, this type of ham is salted and then dried for six months. The taste of Bayonne ham suits perfectly if it is sliced and put into a buttered bread.
The taste of a Bayonne ham can be described as slightly sweet, delicately flavored meat with little salt to the taste. This ham should be cut thinly as it possesses a chewy texture compared to a cooked ham.
Black Forest Ham
Produced in the Black Forest region of Germany, black forest ham is a variety of dry-cured smoked ham. Hans Adler from Bonndorf started the manufacturing and selling of the Original Black Forest ham by retail and mail order in 1959.
This ham is smoked over pine or fir and the whole process can take up to three months. It is the type of ham that is very moist and inherits the distinct flavor from the types of wood used in smoking. Since it is a dry cured ham and smoked ham, black forest is usually cut up and served as sandwich meat. There’s no need to cook the ham but you can heat it up in minutes to add to a hot meal.
Also known as Capocollo, Coppa, Cotto, or Gabagool, Capicola is an Italian cured ham made from the prized cut from the neck to the fourth or fifth rib of the pork shoulder or neck. It is usually cured for ten days, coated in different spices such as black pepper, fennel seed, coriander, and anise, and then slow-roasted to produce a tender shoulder ham.
This Italian cured ham is similar to prosciutto when it comes to appearance. However, prosciutto is known for its buttery texture due to its higher fat content, while capicola is more tender. Capicola has a rich, fatty, and smoky flavor and the thin slices of meat are greasy, yet, this Italian cured ham is not overwhelming and packed with spicy and roasted flavors.
Country Ham is a dry-cured ham that is popular in the south. There are different varieties of country ham, and for a ham to be categorized under this type, it must be dried, cured, and aged for a minimum of 70 days. The use of salt is essential to dry cure a country ham. Country ham is usually rubbed with sugar, salt, saltpeter, and on occasion, other seasonings such as red or black pepper are also included before laying it in salt to cure.
This is not a cooked ham, but country hams can be eaten without cooking as they are preserved. It is salty and the texture is a bit dry. Should you cook a country ham, make sure to soak it for four to 24 hours as this will help in removing the salt while adding moisture into the ham.
Serrano Ham or Jamón Serrano is a flavorful, natural ham, cured in the country air. Due to its strong flavor, this cured ham is usually thinly sliced before serving. No cooking is necessary for serrano ham and it can be served with cheese and olives, or use it to flavor some of your favorite Spanish recipes.
There is a variety of this ham called Acorn-fed jamon Iberico that is intensely sweet. It also provides floral, earthy, and nutty like good Parmesan flavor with a melt-in-the-mouth soft fat. Though both serrano and prosciutto come from the same breeds of white pig, they have a different flavor and texture.
City ham is typically smoked and wet cured ham. If you are fond of buying hams in the grocery store, this is most likely what you are getting as it can be referred to as supermarket hams. City ham is usually pre-cooked and it only needs a little heating to eat it. It can be eaten cold or you can cook it if you want to before serving.
Since it is a wet cured ham, city ham is usually injected with or soaked in a brine solution with lots of salts including sodium chloride, sodium nitrate, and sodium nitrite. It is great to be served as part of a ham sandwich.
Though typical ham comes from the back legs or butt, Canadian bacon comes from the back of the pig, and is a loin cut. It may also have a portion of the pork belly in the same cut. Canadian bacon is also leaner than side bacon made only from the pork belly.
This smoked meat is pre-cooked and is a boneless ham that’s served for breakfast and fried in a skillet. Due to its leaner cut, Canadian bacon is a healthier version as it contains a lower amount of calories than normal bacon. It tastes like lean and juicy meat, with a slightly sweet taste as it is usually salted, smoked and cured with slightly more sugar added.
Cooked Ham is a type of ham that has undergone a thorough heating process to a temperature exceeding 147°F, making it ready to eat without further cooking. It is not smoked and just like a fresh ham, it has a bland taste. Cooked ham is usually a steamed or boiled ham. Cooked ham can also be a boneless ham that you usually get when you are eating lunch meat.
If you want to reheat this ham, make sure that you reheat the ham without drying it out. For you to achieve that goal, place the ham on a rack in a roasting pan and add water to the bottom of the pan. You can cover the whole thing tightly with foil and bake at 325°F for 16-20 minutes per pound, until a meat thermometer registers 135°F.
This is a specific type of aged country ham that’s finished-cured in the town of Smithfield in Isle of Wight County in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, U.S. Sometimes, it can be referred to as Virginia ham. Smithfield ham is ideal to be eaten on some sourdough bread, great for parties as it is an awesome salt cured ham. The very salty meat is slightly dry as well, as it is meant to be like that.
Also, this America’s original artisan ham can only be cured within the Smithfield town limits. That means they have the exclusive right to cure this type of ham as decreed by law. Since the traditional process of making the Smithfield ham hasn’t changed, you still have that superior lean and bone in ham that is rich in deep red color and robust in flavor.
Westphalian Ham is one of those smoked hams that is considered a prized ham as it is cured and smoked slowly over juniper wood and beechwood. It is typically produced from acorn-fed pigs raised in the forests of Westphalia, Germany. This dry cured ham has a dark brown and has a light smoky flavor.
To produce this type of ham, the meat is allowed to stand with a salt cure for 5 weeks. For 4 to 5 weeks cold-smoked from smoke from a fire of beechwood and juniper. Since Westphalian ham is a bone in ham and a dense ham, this is also sold as boneless ham by removing the bone, in which the total processing time is between 2 to 3 months.
Prosciutto is an Italian ham that is uncooked, unsmoked, and dry-cured ham. Among the types of ham, prosciutto is one of those with a lot of varieties. It is often shortened, but it is really called Prosciutto crudo and usually served thinly sliced.
One of the popular varieties of prosciutto is called prosciutto di Parma. It is a prosciutto exclusive to Parma and it’s a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) food, which means that it can’t be produced anywhere else. Prosciutto di Parma is one one of the finest hams in the world.
This is a type of ham that is wet cured with honey consisting of at least one half of the sweetening ingredient used in the curing mix. Honey ham can also be called maple ham as it is usually cured with maple syrup if there’s no honey.
The curing of honey or maple syrup would create a glaze and give the ham that exquisite sweet and savory taste. They are usually boneless hams that are partially cooked hams.
Picnic Ham can be classified as bone-in hams or boneless hams. It is a specialized cut of pork including the upper part of the front leg and bottom part of the pork shoulder that is always cured, smoked and precooked. It is called Picnic ham as it is often used as an inexpensive substitute for real ham and considered to be a good cut for casual dining, such as a picnic.
Picnic ham has the same taste as real ham since it is cured and smoked just like a ham. You can serve the sliced ham to your family during dinner or other occasions.
How to Choose the Right Ham For You
There are other types of ham that you can find out there. There is Irish ham, York Ham, Speck, and Scotch ham, plus other types that can be a variety of aged hams, city hams, uncured ham, Italian ham and more. Choosing the right ham to prepare might be tricky due to these wide varieties.
Before any preparation is done, ham is similar to a roast pork. If you are going to choose a ham, check if you want bone-in, boneless, or partially boned hams. Choosing the right cut on the whole ham means you will be able to enjoy eating the food. When it comes to fat, the shank part of the ham has more fat, whereas the butt part is leaner and is easier to cut.
You can also choose between fresh hams and cured hams. Ham will always be cured if it is not fresh to store it longer. When we say cured hams, it can be brine-cured – a wet cure or a dry cured ham. Brine-cured ham refers to the curing process where it is soaked in a mixture of liquid and salt before it is smoked. This is also the most common curing process used in hams.
Dry-cured hams refer to the process where the meat surface is covered completely with salt and stored until the salt soaks into the meat, and at the same time preserves it. Now, the exciting part is how you are going to cook the ham. You can either have a partially cooked or fully cooked ham. Other hams can be served without cooking, especially those who have been pre-cooked and cured.
If you are going to feed an entire family, choose the shank end ham as it is big enough. You can also have a spiral sliced ham if you have this ham that comes from the lower part of the hog’s leg. But if you want something that is leaner and easier to cut during meals, then go for the butt end of the hog.
Choosing aged hams over uncured ham or fresh hams mean you would be getting a more expensive and stronger flavor ham. A ham that comes with deep flavor would only mean that it has been heavily cured, smoked, and hung for one to seven years. Since they are aged hams, they must be scraped and washed before eating as they are usually covered in molds.