Facts on Ham - KHGI-TV/KWNB-TV/KHGI-CD-Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings

Facts on Ham

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Information about Ham

Ham has a number of definitions, and its meaning has evolved over time. Ham was originally the cut of pork deriving from the hind legs of swine, which was then often preserved through processes such as curing, smoking, or salting. Cooked leg of pork is called gammon.

Because of the preservation process, ham is a compound foodstuff or ingredient, being made up of the original meat, as well as the remnants of the preserving agent(s), such as salt, but it is still a food in its own right.

In many countries the term is now protected by statute, with a specific definition. For instance, in the United States, the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) says that "the word "ham," without any prefix indicating the species of animal from which derived, shall be used in labeling only in connection with the hind legs of swine" There are several methods for producing ham from raw meat, and this is undertaken to preserve and flavor the meat. Most ham is safe to eat following preservation, without the need for cooking. Check the label.  , some processing choices can affect legal labeling.

Fresh Ham: The uncured leg of pork. Since the meat is not cured or smoked, it has the flavor of a fresh pork loin roast or pork chops. Its raw color is pinkish red and after cooking, grayish white.

Fully Cooked: Needs no further cooking. Fully cooked in plant. Can be eaten directly as it comes from its packaging or reheated.

Ham: The product is at least 20.5% protein in lean portion and contains no added water.

Ham with Natural Juices: The product is at least 18.5% protein. Can weigh 8% more than uncured weight. Example: canned hams.

Ham—Water Added: The product is at least 17.0% protein with 10% added solution; it can weigh 8% more after curing than uncured weight.

Ham and Water Products: Product may contain any amount of water but label must indicate percent of "added ingredients." For example, "X % of weight is added ingredients" for any canned ham with less than 17.0% protein.

Ham Steak: Another name for center cut ham slices.

Hickory-Smoked Ham: A cured ham which has been smoked by hanging over burning hickory wood chips in a smokehouse. May not be labeled "hickory smoked" unless hickory wood has been used.

 Honey-Cured: May be shown on the labeling of a cured product if honey is the only sweetening ingredient or is at least half the sweetening ingredients used, and if the honey is used in an amount sufficient to flavor and/or affect the appearance of the finished product.


Picnic, Pork Shoulder Picnic: A front shoulder cut of pork which has been cured in the same manner as ham.

"Lean" Ham: The term "lean" may be used on a ham's label provided the product contains less than 10 grams fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams cholesterol per 100 grams.

"Extra Lean" Ham: A ham labeled "extra lean" must contain less than 5 grams fat, less than 2 grams saturated fat and the same cholesterol as allowed per the amount of "lean" ham

Spiral-Sliced Ham: A ham that has been placed on a special cutting machine that spins the ham around while cutting thin slices all the way to the bone in a continuous spiral. Usually served with a sweet glaze.

Sugar Cured: A term that may appear on ham labels if cane or beet sugar is at least half the sweetening ingredients used and if the sugar is used in an amount sufficient to flavor and/or affect the appearance of the finished product. Most hams contain sugar in the curing mixture.


Ham Storage

Fresh ham can be stored in the refrigerator up to five days before cooking.
Cured ham should be refrigerated in the original packaging for up to a week. Store the packaged ham in the coldest section of your refrigerator.

Wrap the left-over smoked ham tightly in a piece of plastic wrap or place it into a plastic storage container with an air-tight lid if the meat's original packaging is opened or has been removed. Write the storage date on a piece of masking or freezer tape using a pen or marker. Press the tape onto the packaged ham as a handy reminder. Leftovers can be frozen for up to a month. If frozen too long, ham will lose its rosy color and turn greyish-brown, as well as lose texture

Whole hams can be frozen for up to three months,.
Selecting ham for cooking

 Fresh ham should have a well-marbled lean section, with a firm white layer of fat. Young pork will have a grayish-pink color while older pork will be rosy.

Cured hams should be firm and plump, rosy pink with a fine grain to the meat. You will mostly likely have to depend upon dating codes on the ham and the reputation of the producer to judge the quality of uncut hams.

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