Many ham lovers, especially outside of the American South, are unfamiliar with the difference between city hams and country hams. Up until the invention of refrigeration, every ham was a country ham. Ever since, modern grocery store meat aisles have shifted focus to the city ham, which is currently more dominant and familiar to Americans than its country counterpart.
This seismic shift in ham eating habits can be attributed largely to the difference in the curing process. Country hams have always been prepared with traditional dry curing methods. This involves rubbing the surface of the ham with a typically “secret” cure, including salt to preserve the meat. The rub penetrates naturally over time as the country ham dries, being left to age for months.
City hams, on the other hand, employ a wet curing process. They can be soaked or injected with a brine formula that includes salt, water, and other flavorings and seasonings. It’s a much quicker process, one of the reasons wet curing was adopted as the method of choice for many ham makers.
Different curing processes lead to unique flavors and textures for each type of ham. The country ham takes on a firm texture and a deep red color. It has a rich and robust flavor, and is saltier than the city ham. Because of its intense taste, country ham is often used as an accent in other dishes like soups, or cut into thinner slices to be enjoyed on biscuits. City hams will be slightly sweeter with milder overall flavor. Moist and tender due to the wet curing process, the city ham comes fully cooked and ready to eat.
If you’re unfamiliar with country hams, treat yourself or a friend to a unique Southern treat. We offer a variety of cooked and uncooked packages to introduce this culinary delicacy. If you prefer city hams, we have a mouth-watering array of those as well. At Broadbent’s, we respect every method that leads to a delicious ham.