All about ham

By The Associated Press Published:

If ham is the centerpiece of Easter dinner this year, check your options for choosing, slicing and serving it.

Here are some guidelines.

Ham types

Hams are labeled according to the amount of water added to the ham during the curing process. Hams are dry-cured by rubbing salt and spices into the meats surface, or wet-cured with a brine solution containing water, salt, sugar and spices.

There are four types of ham to choose from:

Ham described as Old-fashioned, Country-style or Southern-style. This is a Southern specialty, a style of ham thats dry-cured and contains no added water. It is extremely salty and is usually served in small portions, very thinly sliced.

Ham with natural juices. A favorite main-dish dinner choice, this ham has little water added in the curing process. Its velvety texture and attractive appearance make it a good choice for holiday meals.

Ham, water added. Suitable for steaks, thin slicing and shaving, ham with water added is a versatile choice. It retains more water during the curing process than ham with natural juices.

Ham and water product. Useful for sandwiches, this ham is commonly found in the deli and has the most water added. It is used for cold cuts, either shaved or sliced.

Buying bone-in or boneless

Each ham variety comes either bone-in or boneless, but the flavor is the same. Bone-in hams can add style to the occasion, but can be tricky to carve. Boneless hams are considered more informal and easier to serve.

When serving bone-in ham, plan on 2 to 3 servings per pound. A boneless ham will yield 4 to 5 servings per pound. Bone-in hams are available whole, or as a shank or butt half.

Carving a ham

Be prepared with the right tools and techniques for the job. Use a high-quality, freshly sharpened carving knife and cut only enough ham for immediate needs so that the remaining ham stays moist and juicy.

Simple steps for carving different types of ham:

Bone-in ham. Place the ham on its side. Steady the ham with a fork and cut several long slices off the thin side and turn the ham onto its cut surface. Make perpendicular slices to the leg bone. To loosen the slices, cut along the leg bone, removing each slice with the fork.

Boneless ham. Cut several long slices off the side, turn onto its cut surface and slice to the desired thickness.

The second time around

Ham leftovers can be great on their own or added to ingredients already in the pantry. Think savory sandwiches, ham pastas or ethnic-inspired dinner entrees. Here are some ideas.

Breakfast or brunch:

Pieces of honeydew and cantaloupe melon wrapped with ham strips.

Ground ham sauteed with pepper and fresh garlic, then added to scrambled eggs.

A one-dish breakfast of diced ham, frozen hash browns, canned Cheddar-cheese soup, diced onions and your favorite seasonings.

Later in the day:

A classic spinach salad topped with diced ham, sliced pears, arugula and hot bacon dressing for lunch.

Diced ham and your choice of vegetables added to macaroni cheese.

Ham kabobs for a weeknight meal. Toss ham cubes in a simple marinade, skewer with your favorite veggies and throw on the grill.

Ham added to pasta such as linguine (with ham as an alternative to chicken or shrimp).

Ham-stuffed pork chops: easily made by stuffing thick-cut pork chops with diced ham and flavorful ingredients such as spinach, onions or pine nuts.

The National Pork Board offers a free brochure, Ham 365: Enjoy Ham All Year, helpful for cooks of all ability levels. It includes information and recipes for everyday meals.

The brochure, and other meal ideas, are available at:

http://www.TheOtherWhiteMeat.com

Click on Freebies on the home page.

The recipe booklet also is available by sending a self-addressed mailing label to: Ham 365: Enjoy Ham All Year, National Pork Board, P.O. Box 9114, Des Moines, IA 50306.

Simple, instructional ham-carving diagrams to make each step of the process easy are also available on the Web site in the All About Pork menu for the Types of Ham and Carving a Ham video demonstrations.

The National Pork Board also has a free brochure of special occasion recipes, Celebrate Ham! Special Occasion Recipes. This collection of ham recipes, information and tips is designed to help cooks of all ability levels prepare ham at a variety of occasions the whole year through.

The brochure is available on the Web at:

http://www.TheOtherWhiteMeat.com

Click on Freebies on the home page.

The brochure also is available by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Celebrate Ham! Special Occasion Recipes, National Pork Board, P.O. Box 9114, Des Moines, IA 50306.

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