Ham (food)

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Grilled ham accompanying a tartiflette, a hearty French dish of potatoes and cheese.

Ham is the processed meat from the hind leg of a hog, generally from the middle of the shank bone up to the hip bone. Unprocessed meat is called "fresh ham", while meat that has been treated by one of three methods is called "cured ham". The three basic methods are dry curing, sweet-pickle curing, and injection curing. Additionally, cured hams may then be smoked and/or aged for further development of the flavor. Other important factors in the final quality of the ham are the breed of hog from which the meat was taken, the type of feed such as acorns, peanuts, or corn on which it was raised, and the age at which it was slaughtered. Most ham consumed today in the United States is mass-produced by the swiftest possible methods, in this case injection curing, and is pre-cooked by the manufacturer so that it is sold ready to eat by the consumer. So-called "country-cured" hams, however, are still produced by age-old methods in some parts of the country, particularly in the states of Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. The most famous of these "country-style" hams is the Smithfield from the Virginia town of the same name. Fine hams from around the world include the famous prosciutto from the Parma region of Italy, Westphalian from Germany, York from England, Bayonne from France, Serrano from Spain, and those from the Chinese provinces of Che-Kiang (Zhejiang) and Yunnan.


  • The New Food Lover's Companion, Sharon Tyler Herbst, Barron's, Hauppauge, New York, 1995, ISBN 0-8120-1520-7
  • The Key to Chinese Cooking, Irene Kuo, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1980 ISBN 0-394-49638-8—the Chinese equivalent of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by the same publisher