The world of hams can be a confusing one. Salting, smoking, aging and shelf life can be an elusive topic when it comes to the mainstream education of meat. We looked back in our archives to find a few interesting facts that may enlighten you about the “Great American Ham”, written by our president and third-generation cure master, Sam Edwards III:
- Green mold on an uncooked Virginia country ham is harmless; in fact, it’s the signature of an authentic ham. It is a shame that the chef at a five-star hotel in San Francisco didn’t know that: when an order of hams was delivered, he ordered them thrown out because they were spoiled. The diners, who had specially requested the hams for a company function, were none too happy.
- Black pepper was originally rubbed on hams in the curing stages to prevent infestation by insects that were repelled by the strong pepper. Today, the pepper serves no practical purpose; it is simply a tradition.
- Smoke does not penetrate deep into a ham; the curing process already draws out most of the moisture that would be affected by the smoke.
- Historical records document that hams were exported from Surry County, Virginia, as early as the mid-17th century.
- A cooked country ham can be stored without refrigeration for up to 10 days; once sliced, it can last for months refrigerated.
- Pigs are not native to America; Hernando de Soto is credited with bringing the first 13 hogs to the New World in 1525.
- The difference between “city” and “country” hams is significant: “City” hams are processed in a wet cure (brine), then usually simply smoked (not aged). The result is a moist ham with a mild flavor. “Country” hams are dry-cured and aged, producing a stronger flavor that is saltier and drier.