COUNTRY HAMS

What are Country Hams?

Country hams are pork hams that have been processed using a curing method to allow them to be stored with out refrigeration. The method used is salt curing which absorbs much of the water out of the ham and  inhibits the growth of microorganisms. Hickory smoking is also used to add flavor and to add chemicals to the surface of meat that reduce the concentration of salt required. During the 1940s the hams that were cured using this process were referred to as country hams. The salty flavor of country hams is desired by many and compliments the more bland flavor of grits and eggs in the Southern diet. Today country ham center cuts are often sold as a premium meat across the South and is served at lunch and dinner with an assortment of vegatable.

 

Why do uncooked country ham products not require refrigeration?

According to the USDA, uncooked country hams are safe to store at room temperature because they contain so little water bacteria cannot multiply in them. A whole, uncut country ham can be stored safely at room temperature for up to 1 year. The ham is safe after 1 year, but the quality may suffer. Our ham cuts are sliced and vacuum packaged, which removes oxygen in addition to being a low moisture product. We do not ship our vacuum packaged salt cured country ham with cooling packages or special packaging since it is not necessary. Once you receive the package we suggest you store it in the refrigerator where it may be safely kept for 2 to 3 months.

How do I fry country ham?

Cook slices that are up to about 1/4 inch thick. Do not trim the fat off of the slice of ham since this adds flavor and aids in cooking. Fry slowly in a large heavy skillet, I prefer my seasoned iron skillet. Turn the slices often and the ham is done when the fat is transparent and beginning to brown. Do not over fry as this will make the ham hard, dry and tough. For milder or less salty taste, soak in lukewarm water or sweet milk for up to 30 minutes before frying. If I am cooking very lean biscuit cuts, I either add some oil to the skillet or cook 1 to 2 slices of bacon in the skillet to create more fat for cooking the ham. I then have to make a little red eye gravy for the biscuit as well.

A little history about salt cure ham...

Growing up Georgia, we built a large wooden box with a cover and then covered the bottom with a 2 to 3 inch layer of salt. The hams were carefully placed the box and were not allowed to touch the sides of the box or other hams. We liberally applied more salt to completely cover the hams and over the course of time the salt removed significant moisture from the meat. making it safe to store for long periods of time without refrigeration. After my father salt cured the ham he coated it with honey tightly wrapped it and then hung it from the rafters in an out building. Country hamis first mentioned in print in 1944, referring to a method of curing and smoking done in the rural sections of the South. The first writings of curing or the salting of hams actually occurs in history in 160BC. Obviously room temperature can be vague but growing up in Georgia we suffered from a much wider variation of room temperature then we experience today and we still enjoyed our country ham as we hope you do.