Much of what we know of Ham is the cured city or country variety that you simply heat and serve. But lately, I’ve been seeing more ham labeled “uncured” on grocer’s shelves. What gives?
Uncured ham is also called fresh ham. It’s the same cut as cured, but not embellished with any of the brine and smoke or other flavorings the more common city hams and gourmet country hams. It even has a light pink or grey color, as you would expect in uncooked meat. It requires a little extra preparation and cooking time than its cured counterparts. Here’s a good explanation of ham types from the City Cook.
You could infer that uncured hams are a healthier alternative. Many are labelled organic or natural. And with uncured hams you won’t get any of the nitrites or nitrates used in many cured hams – a controversial addition for some. Fresh hams are described as far less salty, too, even if you brine the pork yourself.
But the reason I think we’re seeing more interest in the uncured variety of hams is this: We continue to be in the golden age of DIY cooking. This trend grew up with Martha Stewart’s Omnimedia empire, still going strong after many years, and continues to evolve with widening demand for local and organic foods.
In certain ways, people are spending more time in the kitchen. This is particularly true around the holidays. So it makes sense that uncured hams are lining shelves.
If you decide to try uncured ham, how do you cook it? Here are a few tips and recipes:
- The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a food safety sheet for Ham that’s handy. It includes a time table for cooking fresh hams.
- A Perfect Ham Recipe from the New York Times.
- Smoke your own Ham with these instructions from eHow.
- Epicurious offers a great recipe for Grilled Molasses and Rum-Glazed Fresh Ham.
- Brine your own ham using this universal brining instruction from Cook’s Illustrated.
We love pulling out the grill in winter, so we’re thinking of doing a basic brine and then throwing it on the grill. Share your favorite fresh ham cooking technique or recipe with us!
To learn more about cooking ham, please enjoy our FREE eBook, a Spring Ham Primer.
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