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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 U.S. are also called gammon in the U.K. and Ireland.

Regional use


Chinese dry-cured hams have been recorded in texts since prior to Song dynasty and used in myriad dishes. Several types are existent in Qing dynastymarker and used in dishes of stewing hams (火腿炖肘子), and vegetables, or for a wide variety of soup and important soup stocks. One of the most famous Chinese hams is the Jinhua ham, which is used to produce a dish known as "Buddha jumps over the wall".


Bayonne Ham or Bayonne is an air dried salted ham that takes its name from the ancient port city of Bayonnemarker 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.


Regional varieties of dry-cured, smoked hams include:


In Italy, ham is called prosciutto, and can be either raw (prosciutto crudo) or cooked (prosciutto cotto).

Earliest evidence of ham production in Italymarker comes from the Republican Roman period (400-300 BC).

Modern Italian and European Union legislation grants a protected designation of origin to several raw hams, which specify where and how these types of ham can be produced.There are several such hams from Italy, each one with a peculiar production process.Parmamarker 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 distinctive mark. Only larger fresh hams are used (12-13 kilograms). Curing uses relatively little salt, but can include garlic salt and sugar, 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 12 months. This curing method uses only salt, without nitrates and without spices. No conserving substances are added. San Danielemarker ham (Prosciutto di San Daniele) is the most similar to Parma ham, especially the low quantity of salt added to the meat, and is the most prized ham. 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 the Philippinesmarker, ham, or hamon as it is called (from the Spanish jamón) is normally associated with the Yuletide season. There are local variants of Jamón Serrano, and there is Hamon de Bola, which is a ball-shaped wet cured ham, among other varieties. There is also tinned processed ham--the type in cans--available year round in groceries. The main Christmas ham, similar to a Chinese ham and served in some Noche Buenas, is similar to a dry cured one, and it has to be cooked in a special sweet broth after being soaked to reduce the salt. Then the ham is scored and glazed, and roasted. King Sue is the main local manufacturer of this type of ham. Hamon de Bola, produced by the major Philippine food manufacturers (CDO-Foodsphere, Purefoods-Hormel, Swift's, among others), is usually offered as gifts to employees in most companies and government offices during the Yuletide season. This can be either baked or fried. As with the other dishes "localized" from foreign sources, the Philippine palate favors the sweeter variety of ham.


Portuguese Presunto from Chaves
Portuguese Presunto from Chaves, ready to be sliced
In Portugalmarker, besides several varieties of wet-cured hams called fiambre (not to be confused with the Guatemalanmarker 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 Portugalmarker; among the most famous are presunto from Chavesmarker and presunto from Alentejo (made from black Iberian pig; see also pata negra).


In Romaniamarker, ham is called şuncă/şonc/jambon. Usually it is dry cured, always with granular salt; in Transilvania and Banat, paprika might be added.


One of the more exacting ham regulatory practices can be found in Spainmarker, where ham is called jamón. Hams in Spain are not only classified according to preparation, but also the breed, the pre-slaughter diet and region of preparation are considered important.

The jamón serrano (Serrano Ham) comes from the white pig.The regional appellations of Spanish Serrano ham include the following:
  • Cured ham of Trevélezmarker, cured at least 1,200 meters above sea level. Cured hams from Trevélez are qualified to be 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 Sierra Nevada.
  • Teruelmarker, is cured at least 800 meters above sea level, with a minimum of a year of curing and aging.

Jamón Ibérico (Iberian ham) comes from the black Iberian Pig, and is also classified depending on the amount of acorns they eat, which determines the ham quality. Spanish regulators recognize three qualities:
  • Jamón Ibérico Cebo hogs are fed only commercial feed.
  • Jamón Ibérico Cebo Campo hogs are fed only commercial feed.
  • Jamón Ibérico Recebo hogs are raised on commercial feed and fed acorns for the last few months of their lives.
  • Jamón Ibérico Bellota hogs are fed a diet almost exclusively of acorns (bellotas), the most famous.

The regional appellations (D.O.) of Iberian ham include the following:

United States

The United States largely inherited its traditions relating to ham and pork from 17th-century Britain and 18th-century France, the latter especially in Louisianamarker. The French often used wet cure processed hams that are the foundation stock of several modern dishes, like certain gumbos and sandwiches. Until the very early twentieth century, men living in the southern Appalachians would drive their pigs to market in the flatlands below each autumn, fattening up their stock on chestnuts and fallen mast, much like their Scottish forebearers did for centuries. Further, archaeological evidence suggests that the early settlers of Jamestown (men largely from the West Midlands) built swine pens for the pigs they brought with them and, once established, also carried on an ancient British tradition of slaughtering their pigs and producing their pork in mid-November. To this day, the result is that in many areas of the Southeast, a large ham, not a turkey, is the centerpiece of a family Christmas dinner.

Sliced ham
In the United States, ham is regulated primarily on the basis of its cure and water content. The USDAmarker 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 (picnic ham). Virginia's famous Smithfield ham, a country ham, must be grown and produced in or around Smithfield, Virginiamarker, to be sold as such. Similar, lesser known hams from Tennessee and the Appalachians have a similar method of preparation, but are more likely to include honey in their cures and be hickory smoked.

For most other purposes, under US law, a "ham" is a cured hind leg of pork that is at least 20.5% protein (not counting fat portions), and contains no added water. However, "ham" can be legally applied to "turkey ham" if the meat is taken from the turkey thigh. If the ham has less than 20.5% but is at least 18.5% protein, it can be called "ham with natural juices". A ham that is at least 17.0% protein and up to 10% added solution can be called "ham—water added". Finally, "ham and water product" refers to a cured hind leg of pork product that contains any amount of added water, although the label must indicate the percent added ingredients. If a ham has been cut into pieces and molded, it must be labelled "sectioned and formed", or "chunked and formed" if coarsely ground.

Sugar is common in many dry hams in the United Statesmarker; it is used to cover the saltiness. 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 a brine for an extended period, often followed by light smoking.

In addition to the main categories, some processing choices can affect legal labelling. A 'smoked' ham must have been smoked by hanging over burning wood chips in a smokehouse or an atomized spray of liquid smoke such that the product appearance is equivalent; a "hickory-smoked" ham must have been smoked using only hickory. However, injecting "smoke flavour" is not legal grounds for claiming the ham was "smoked"; these are labelled "smoke flavor added". Hams can only be labelled "honey-cured" if honey was at least 50% of the sweetener used, is at least 3% of the formula, and has a discernible effect on flavor. So-called "lean" and "extra lean" hams must adhere to maximum levels of fat and cholesterol per 100 grams of product.

One of the most popular and expensive hams in the United States is Smithfield or Virginia ham. Through a special curing process, Smithfield ham ages. In that time a fungal coat forms over the outside of the ham, while the rest of the meat continues to age. This process produces a distinctive flavor, but the fungal layer must be scrubbed off the ham before being cooked or served.

Turkey ham, a boneless product made from pressed turkey thigh meat, is a popular low-fat alternative to traditional ham in the US.

A spiral-slicing process has become popular for bone-in or boneless hams sold by delicatessens in the US.

Tinned ham

Tinned ham (more commonly known in the United States as "canned ham") is a meat product that is sold exclusively in tins (or cans). The ham itself is usually formed from smaller cuts of meat, cooked in the can, and is often covered in an aspic jelly during the canning process. Two versions are available, perishable and shelf stable. The former are marked KEEP REFRIGERATED, and the latter have higher salt contents and are retorted to a much higher temperature to make them stable at room temperature.

Tinned ham is usually sold in supermarkets and convenience stores.


In November 2007, the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research published their second expert report, entitled Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. This report took five years to prepare and reviewed more than 7,000 studies published worldwide. Among the recommendations of the report is that, except for very rare occasions, people should avoid eating ham or other processed meats -- cured, smoked, salted or chemically preserved meat products such as bacon, hot dogs, sausage, salami, and pastrami. The report states that once an individual reaches the 18-ounce (510 g) weekly limit for red meat, every 1.7 ounces (48 g) of processed meat consumed a day increases cancer risk by 21%.

See also


  2. Regulator Agency of the Serrano Ham D.O. Jamón de Teruel
  3. Campaña informativa sobre los Productos del Ibérico del Ministerio de Agricultura de España
  4. Regulator Agency of the Iberian Ham D.O. Jamón de Huelva
  5. Turkey Ham
  6. Patents & Press Releases: Benefits to the Franchisee of Logan Farms Spiral Slicing Technologies

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