For other uses, see Ham (disambiguation).

Technically, ham is the thigh and buttock of any animal that is slaughtered for meat, but the term is usually restricted to a cut of pork, the haunch of a pig or boar. Although it can be cooked and served fresh, most ham is cured in some fashion.

Ham can either be dry-cured or wet-cured. A dry-cured ham has been rubbed in a mixture containing salt and a variety of other ingredients, most usually some proportion of sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite. Sugar is common in many US ham dry cures. This is followed by a period of drying and aging. A wet-cured ham has been cured with a brine, either by immersion or injection. The division between wet and dry cure is not always hard-and-fast as some ham curing methods begin wet but are followed by dry aging.

Missing image
Ham with cloves

The majority of common wet-cured ham available in US 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. Traditional wet cured ham includes the English Wiltshire ham.

Dry cured varieties include prosciutto (the Italian style of dry-cured ham) and Parma ham or prosciutto di Parma (prosciutto from the city of Parma). Spain has jamn serrano. USA country ham includes Virginia ham, which is smoked. England has the York ham. Germany's Westphalian ham is usually smoked over juniper.

Ham is also processed into other meat products such as SPAM luncheon meat.


National regulation of ham production

Each country that produces ham has its own regulations.


In the United States, ham is regulated primarily on the basis of its cure and water content. US law (specifically the USDA) 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. Smithfield ham, a country ham, must be made in or around Smithfield, Virginia to be sold as such.

Missing image
Sliced ham

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 such things as "turkey ham" if the meat is taken from the thigh of the animal. 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 labeled "sectioned and formed" or "chunked and formed".

In addition to the main categories, some processing choices can affect legal labeling. A "smoked" ham must have been smoked by hanging over burning wood chips in a smokehouse, and a "hickory smoked" ham must have been smoked over hickory. Injecting "smoke flavor" is not legal grounds for claiming the ham was "smoked". Hams can only be labeled "honey-cured" if honey was at least 50% of the sweetener used and has a discernable effect on flavor. So-called "lean" and "extra lean" hams must adhere to maximum levels of fat and cholesterol per 100 grams of product.


Earliest evidence of ham production in Italy comes from the Republican Roman period (400-300 BCE). Modern Italian and European Union legislation grants a protected designation of origin to several 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. Parma 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, 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. The San daniele ham (Prosciutto di San Daniele) is the most similar to Parma ham, especially the low quantity of salt added to the meat. Other raw hams include the so called "nostrani" or "nazionali" or "toscani", they are more strongly flavored and are produced using an higher quantity of salt. Italy also has widespread production of more pedestrian cooked hams. See also prosciutto.


One of the more exacting ham regulatory practices can be found in Spain. Not only are hams classified according to preparation, but the pre-slaughter diet and region of preparation are considered important. Spanish regulators recognize three types of ham hogs.

  • Cellar hogs are fed only commercial feed.
  • Recebo hogs are raised on commercial feed and fed acorns for the last few months of its life.
  • Bellota hogs are fed a diet almost exclusively of acorns (bellota).

The regional appelations of Spanish ham (jamn serrano) include the following:

  • Huelva, a full-flavored ham produced in Cadiz, Cordoba, Huelva, Malaga, Seville, and Badajoz.
  • Guijuelo, from Gredos and Bjar, Castille, Leon, Extremadura, and Andalusia.
  • Extremadura Dehesa, made in Cceres and Badajoz exclusively of bellota hogs. This is a “white” ham.
  • Teruel, cured at least 800 meters above sea level, with a minimum of a year of curing and aging.

19th-century United States wet/dry curing recipe

(From The Household Cyclopedia (http://www.mspong.org/cyclopedia/rural_economy.html#cure_hams), 1888)

(This is reproduced, word for word, from the original source with added noted in parentheses. Vinegar is not typically used in ham curing in the present day.)

For each ham of twelve pounds weight: Two pounds of common salt; 2 ounces of saltpetre; 1/4 pound of bay salt (coarse salt, possibly sea salt); 1/4 pound of coarse sugar. This should be reduced to the finest powder. Rub the hams well with it; female hands are not often heavy enough to do this thoroughly. Then place them in a deep pan, and add a wineglassful (1/4 cup or 2 US fl. oz) of good vinegar (This may have been stronger than the "5 grain" vinegar usually available in the modern USA). Turn the hams every day; for the first three or four days rub them well with the brine; after that time it will suffice to ladle it over the meat with a wooden or iron spoon. They should remain three weeks in the pickle. When taken from it wipe them well, put them in bags of brown paper (Warning: the "brown paper" of a modern grocery sack should not be used in this fashion. The recipe probably refers to very plain, unbleached paper. "Brown paper bags" are made from a variety of unknown pulp sources and may have a variety of inappropriate chemicals.) and then (cold) smoke them with wood smoke for three weeks.

External links

[1] (http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Ham/index.asp) United States Department of Agriculture: Focus on Ham Template:Cookbookparde:Schinken es:Jamn eo:Ŝinko fr:jambon nl:Ham (vlees) ja:ハム (食品)


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (https://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Art)
    • Architecture (https://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Architecture)
    • Cultures (https://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Cultures)
    • Music (https://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Music)
    • Musical Instruments (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/List_of_musical_instruments)
  • Biographies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Biographies)
  • Clipart (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Clipart)
  • Geography (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Geography)
    • Countries of the World (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Countries)
    • Maps (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Maps)
    • Flags (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Flags)
    • Continents (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Continents)
  • History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History)
    • Ancient Civilizations (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Ancient_Civilizations)
    • Industrial Revolution (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Industrial_Revolution)
    • Middle Ages (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Middle_Ages)
    • Prehistory (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Prehistory)
    • Renaissance (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Renaissance)
    • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
    • United States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/United_States)
    • Wars (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Wars)
    • World History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History_of_the_world)
  • Human Body (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Human_Body)
  • Mathematics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Mathematics)
  • Reference (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Reference)
  • Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Science)
    • Animals (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Animals)
    • Aviation (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Aviation)
    • Dinosaurs (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Dinosaurs)
    • Earth (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Earth)
    • Inventions (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Inventions)
    • Physical Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Physical_Science)
    • Plants (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Plants)
    • Scientists (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Scientists)
  • Social Studies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Social_Studies)
    • Anthropology (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Anthropology)
    • Economics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Economics)
    • Government (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Government)
    • Religion (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Religion)
    • Holidays (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Holidays)
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Solar_System)
    • Planets (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Planets)
  • Sports (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Sports)
  • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
  • Weather (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Weather)
  • US States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/US_States)


  • Home Page (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php)
  • Contact Us (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Contactus)

  • Clip Art (http://classroomclipart.com)
Personal tools