Pale Pink (pale pink) – pale washed out pink is the color of a fresh ham beginning the cure process.
Pink (pink) – Pink is the color when country hams have completed what USDA calls certification; they have gone through the cure process, salt equalization and aged at 75 degrees for 35 days. The age of the ham will be just under 3 months old at this point will have gone from a pale shade of pink to a little bolder shade of pink.
Mauve (mauve) – Remember that color that was popular in the 1980’s. That’s it, the color a country ham will be at about age 6 months. Some folks enjoy a six month old ham, it will be loaded with moisture, yet we think it will need to hang around just a few months longer to develop flavor before it is ready for eating.
Dark Mauve (dark mauve) – Broadbent puts their hams for sale at age 9 months. As the moisture leaves the ham, the color deepens and the flavor develops. This ham will be the perfect age to slow cook, slice thin and serve. As it cooks it will lighten in color to another shade of Pink (pink).
Red (red) – Now we are talking…this is the color of uncooked country ham breakfast, dinner and center steaks at about 10 ½ months old, just ready to put in the skillet and fry. You can make red eye gravy from the drippings that will be even a deeper shade of Red (deep red). Now that’s the way to top a biscuit. Grill them or wrap them in foil and bake in the oven, they will be delicious. These steaks will appear Dark Burgundy (dark burgundy) on the edges of the ham exposed to the cure and not covered by skin and fat.
Almost Burgundy (almost burgundy) – This is close to the color of a 1 year old country ham, yet it is a much more appealing color than appears here. White fat will appear as a marbling of these red shades and fat go together to create the perfect flavor. White Specks will also appear in older hams; these develop as the ham ages and are a sign of a well aged ham. As the ham continues to age the color grows deeper. Many enjoy these older hams as prosciutto.
Pecan (pecan) – As the ham is smoked, the outside of the ham will take on a golden pecan color. It may vary slightly to a shade darker Almost Brown (almost brown).
I think we discovered about a dozen shades of colors found in country ham representing different ages and different unique flavors.