The Wonderful World of Hams (Part 2)

dry cured Kentucky ham

This is our second blog featuring speeches written by 4-H students who participate in a project of curing country hams at our facility each year. This speech is written by Robert Morgan. Here is Robert’s speech:
 
“If you thought they only cured hams in the Southern U.S., you’d be dead wrong! It’s a preservation technique, therefore is practiced all over the map, yet as a Western tradition, has only been practiced since the 15th century. We can understand a little bit about a group’s culinary traditions based upon the way they practice this fine art.
 
Many people cure their own hams. Several cultures— Germans, Spanish, Chinese, and the Caribbean, just to name a few— have their own version, reflecting the area’s unique flavor. The preparation process, meaning the smoke, spices, cuts, and storage, differentiates them. They can be either skinned, skinless, partially boned, boned, or rolled and tied into a neat round shape. They also can be either wet or dry cured. Wet cured means that they are either soaked in or injected with brine, usually mixed with spices, sugar, and nitrates. This causes them to have a milder, wetter flavor. The downside is that these hams need to be refrigerated. In contrast, dry cured hams, are rubbed or packed in salt, sugar, and other spices, which gives them a sharper, dryer flavor, as well as a coarser texture than wet cured ham. Unlike the other variety, these are well preserved and do not require refrigeration.
 
Several subcategories of ham exist. Smoked hams are infused with the vapor of burning wood, such as that of a pine or hickory. This can be done either by hanging in a smokehouse or with the use of chemicals. Country hams are dry cured, and normally smoked. Spiral-cut hams are wet-cured, smoked, and have been run through a machine that results in a cut of meat that can hold its shape and be pulled apart easily. Deli ham has been injected with brine and possibly even slightly smoked. Canned ham is wet-cured ham that has been placed inside a can for preservation. Aged hams are at least seven years old by the time they are consumed. Prosciutto is a dry-cured ham that has been smoked and pressed. Serrano and Iberico hams are Spanish. Tasso is a Cajun ham.
 
Germans normally serve their hams either raw or boiled, with the exception of Black Forest Ham, which is smoked at 77℉— and was traditionally soaked briefly in beef blood to turn it black. If raw, it has a dark red color, unlike boiled hams, which are a hot pink. The specialty hams differ depending upon what wood they’re smoked with, such as oak, cedar, hickory, and pine, and what’s mixed into the meat— various berries and seeds. Black forest ham, for example, is slowly roasted over pine chips. Westphalian hams are smoked over beech wood and juniper berries.
 
After hams are prepared, they are often glazed with a liquid mixture. Usually this will include honey; sometimes other bases, such as molasses, are used. The glaze is used to give the ham a nice sheen and to add a more robust flavor.
 
Ham is not only an American tradition, but a global one as well. The way a people cures their pork is not only a reflection of the geography, but of the culture as well.”

The Wonderful World of Hams (Part I)

dry cured Kentucky ham

Our next two blogs are going to feature speeches written by 4-H Students who participate in a project of curing country hams at our facility each year. The first speech is written by Autumn Kammerdiener titled Welcome Aboard.  Here is Autumn’s speech:
 
“Welcome aboard the S.S. Broadbent we know that you have many international cruises to choose from and we thank you for choosing us. Much like the boat we’re on now in dry cured hams could be found traveling the world along with sailors. Today we’re going to sail around the world and learn about dry cure hams.
 
Our first stop is Tuscan Italy where hams are sliced paper thin and served uncooked in salads and with fruit this dry cure ham is named Prosciutto. If you ever have the chance never pass up prosciutto and always be willing to try new things.
 
Now we have come to our second destination Porte de la Spain where you will find iberico ham the most prized Spanish hams selling for upward of 100 pounds or about $200. Hogs selected for iberico ham are fed acorns and have many grades dependent on how much of their diet is acorns.
 
Now we travel up to Germany home of black forest ham mainly used for sandwiches a saltier ham blackened on the outside. A more expensive German ham is the Westphalian ham where hogs are only fed acorns.
 
Now we will cross the channel to Great Britain home of the York ham. York ham is an essential for Englanders. It is dry cured for ten weeks. York ham is very rare today normally and made from the leg of the Yorkshire pig it is boiled and rolled in golden brown bread crumbs and served for holidays.
 
Wiltshire ham is a traditional way of preserving ham in England. Originated in the 18th century in calne Wiltshire developed by the Harris family was a dry cured ham but turned into a wet cure ham after ww1. The name Wiltshire ham is now used to represent all British hams in Great Britain.
 
Now we will sail to the Far East and visit Xinhua, province of china and find the Xinhua ham. This ham is used for stews, brazing, and broths in many Chinese soups. This ham was awarded first place in 1915 at the panama international merchandise exhibition.
 
Have you ever had ham with pineapple? Chances are yes you have and while that trend was started by Hawaiians there is no specific name given to hams produced in Hawaii. Now we will be traveling through the Panama Canal and up the Mississippi river to Kentucky our last stop.
 
Welcome back to Kentucky we are home of the horse park, keen land, and country ham. Lesser known to most tourists at the state fair when you pass through the horticulture exhibits you come upon the Kentucky proud booths and a small shed like structure that holds the best hams in Kentucky. These hams are the sweet aroma that makes the cow stall scent bearable. Many hams the best of the best, well thought out before the leg was even off the hog. And one of these the Broadbent ham produced with extreme care chosen out of many others just like it and then sent to bring back a big shiny ribbon. “
 
The Kentucky Ham Autumn spoke about is a dry cured ham.  It is aged about 9 months and hickory smoked.