A Beginner’s Guide to Holiday Hams


When it comes to the holiday seasons, many find ham on the menu. There are some holidays that are simply incomplete without certain food items. The fond connection between these festivities and particular foods may be because of a cultural significance.

Also, for some people, a staple meal or dish helps them rejoice in the memories of childhood family gatherings. Are you considering a lag, festive chunk of ham for your holiday celebration? Here we have put together a guide to make sure you know how to create the perfect holiday feast with the best-cooked ham in Ireland.

Where Do Hams Come From

We get all bone-in hams from the hind leg of the pig. Bone-in ham is incredibly flavorful and juicy, making it the perfect staple for a holiday feast. You can get two hams to form each pig. Because of the large size of the meat, you will sometimes find the ham cut into two pieces.

Here you can choose the butt region which is fattier and richer, or the shank, which has a rich flavor and is relatively leaner. In addition, bone-in ham can be left raw, aged, smoked, wet- or dry-cured. The ideal cooking technique depends on the kind of ham you buy.

City Hams

Most hams that you will find in the stores are city hams. City ham, also known as honey ham and smoked ham, is one of the most popular varieties of hams for Americans. Moreover, you soak this variety in brine instead of subjecting it to dry curing. Soaking enables the cure (containing sugar, nitrites, and salts) to seep into the meat properly.

Furthermore, this process cuts back on the curing time. Also, the meat turns out to be moist and tender as there is minimal water loss. A lot of the hams are cooked partially, which retains the moisture in the meat. Also, it enables you to prepare the meal in a small period of time.

Smoked and cured hams have a delicious savory flavor as you smoke them over hardwoods. These include cherry, apple, oak, and hickory. Cold smoking takes a lot longer than the conventional methods, and it can also be pricier. A lot of these hams get a final finishing glaze of sweet and flavored honey.

Country Ham

Country ham is like American prosciutto that has an intense, meaty flavor and a solid chew. It follows the European tradition where the pigs are fed nuts and fruits to get more flavorful meat. It is famous particularly in the south, where people prepare it by applying a dry salt rub to the ham. You then hang the ham for air-drying and keep it in the dry place for a few months.

Country hams come in both unsmoked and smoked forms, which are both raw varieties. In addition, you need a few days planning when you want to cook the country ham. To start with, soak the ham in cold water for a couple of days and change the water every eight hours to remove the excess salt. As the meat is still raw, you have to cook the ham at a safe temperature.

The best technique that you can use here is that of moist heat. Place the ham in a roasting pan with a little water at the bottom until the temperature is maintained.

Lastly, you uncover the pan and glaze the ham according to your likings. Some recipes require you to cook the bone-in-country ham in spices, maple syrup, and apple cider. The trick is to cook it nice and slow for the perfect holiday meal.

Fresh Hams

Fresh ham is a raw variety of ham that is available in an uncooked form. It is simply the pig’s leg that has not been subjected to smoking or curing. People usually buy fresh hams with the skin on. Additionally, this variety is ideal for a juicy and flavorful pork roast with delicious cracklings on the top. Furthermore, fresh hams can also benefit from some prep ahead of time.

Take a sharp knife and score the top skin of the ham in a crosshatch pattern. Next, generously season the meat with salt and let it rest in the fridge for three to four days. When you manage an internal temperature of approximately 145 degrees F, roast the ham and finish off with an ultimate heat blast to get the skin nice and golden.

Boneless Ham

Boneless ham is what it sounds like – it is a ham variety that doesn’t contain any bones. It is deboned before any processing and curing. After the deboning process, you decompress the meat into a tucked oval shape. In addition, the tight shape makes it easier to slice and serve the ham. However, the texture of boneless ham is more similar to the deli-ham variety.

Thus, it might not be the best option for a festive meal. Bone-in-hams tend to have more flavor in contrast to boneless hams. Moreover, bone-in hams are more decorative and offer a more festive and aesthetic presentation on holiday feasts and special dinners. Another bonus is the ham hock that you can use for stews and soups.

The Best Spiral Ham

Spiral-sliced ham is an excellent option for people who don’t particularly enjoy the task of cutting and carving the ham. You place the smoked ham on a spit and rotate it against the blade. It moved lengthwise, slicing the meat in a spiral, all the way to the bone. Spiral cutting at home is not all that possible, and it is something that you should leave to the professionals.

Once you have the spiral ham, all you have to do is cut along the bone, and the ready-to-eat ham slices come right off the spiral. Furthermore, the spiral slicing makes allows for some of that delicious, sweet glaze to drip down the meat, enhancing its flavor.

Ham continues to be a delicious staple holiday feast inclusion. Hopefully, this guide gave you some insight into the different varieties of holiday hams. Use this information to create a delicious centerpiece for your special dinner. Order some quality ham today to make your holiday feast an unforgettable celebration.