While Americans seem to reserve ham for special holiday occasions, your butcher well knows that ham can be a special treat any time of the year. Ham, as a product of the domestic pig, has a long and storied history and has graced many a table down through history from the tables of the aristocracy to the fork of the humble peasant.
- Pigs were domesticated in China as far back as seven thousand years ago and came into fashion about 3500 years ago on the European continent. Come the 1600’s, pigs were being raise for food pretty much all over Europe and elsewhere. Bacon as well as salted pork enjoy extremely long shelf lives and so became an important part of the European diet.
- As your butcher knows, choosing the right ham for the right meal can get challenging. In general, however, fresh hams should be well marbled with visible layers of fat. Older cuts will tend to be rose colored in appearance as younger ham will be somewhat greyer in appearance.
- Many types of ham exist including aged hams that are heavily cured and smoked and the best of them can be hung to age for as long as seven years. Ham can also come with the bone in or out or even with partially left bones depending on the butcher’s cut.
- Fresh ham comes straight from the pig’s back legs and needs to be properly cooked and prepared to enjoy. Fully cooked ham can be enjoyed immediately without even being heated. It was originally cooked to an inside temperature of 148 degrees and can be ready at a moments notice for special buffets or sandwiches.
- Ham is easily refrigerated for future use or could be stored in a dry yet cooler place. As it ages, however, the ham will tend to dry out a bit which will make your butcher’s cut rather tough after a while.
- There are so many cuts of ham to enjoy that having it available all year round can make it so much more enjoyable rather than waiting for those once or twice a year special events. Meet with your butcher to decide what cut will be exactly right for your next special ham presentation.