Fresh ham should be labeled “pork leg” to differentiate it from cured ham. Fresh ham will taste differently than cured ham. Ham can be cured using salt, either by brining or dry curing. Smoking is another common method of curing ham. The ham is smoked in an airtight place over beech wood or hickory, giving it a milder flavor than salt cured ham.

Fresh ham may be boneless or bone-in. Bone-in ham gives the cook the opportunity to make a terrific homemade ham soup after the majority of the meat has been consumed. Boneless hams are easier to cut.

Fresh ham has not been preserved and must be refrigerated until it is cooked, and should be cooked shortly after purchase. It should have a bright grayish-pink color. A greenish or rainbow color may be an indication of bacterial growth on the muscle tissue of the ham. The ham should contain a moderate amount of marbling (fat) as this will add flavor to the ham. Too much marbling may make the ham taste greasy.

Basic Cooking Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Trim excess fat from the ham, leaving about one-quarter to one-half inch. Place the ham in a roasting pan with the fat side up. Do not add water or cover the ham. Insert a meat thermometer into the ham so that it is neither resting on any fat nor or on the bone. Place the roasting pan on the rack in the oven. Bake the ham for ten minutes per pound or until the thermometer reads 160 degrees Fahrenheit. For a ten-pound ham, bake it for one hour and forty minutes. Allow the ham to rest for 15 minutes prior to carving.

For additional flavor, score the ham by cutting the outside fat in a diamond shape approximately one-quarter inch deep. Place a whole clove into the center of each diamond. For a prettier presentation and even more flavor, arrange pineapple rings on the fat, securing them with toothpicks. Secure a maraschino cherry in the center of each ring with additional toothpicks.

For a glazed ham, prepare the ham by scoring it. Bake the ham until it is within one hour of being done or until the internal thermometer reads 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine one cup of brown sugar; one-quarter cup of honey, maple syrup, cider vinegar, or pineapple juice; and two teaspoons of dry mustard. Remove the ham from the oven. Place the cloves, pineapple rings, and maraschino cherries onto the fat. Cover the ham with the glaze and return it to the oven. Brush the ham with the glaze every fifteen minutes for the remaining hour of cooking time.

German Ham Loaf

For a German ham loaf, grind one pound of ham (trimmed of fat); one pound of fresh pork; two cloves of garlic; and one onion. Add one teaspoon of freshly ground pepper; two teaspoons of curry powder; one teaspoon of crumbled sage; and one and one half teaspoons of salt. Thoroughly blend in one egg white and one half cup of cream. Bring three quarts of water, one-quarter cup of vinegar, and one teaspoon of salt to a boil in a large pot. Shape the meat mixture into a loaf and wrap it tightly in a clean square of cheesecloth. Secure with twine. Place the ham loaf on a rack or trivet in the boiling water. Cover the pot, reduce the heat, and simmer the ham loaf for one and one-half hours. Drain. Place it in a snug container covered with a tight-fitting lid. Place cans or other heavy objects on top of the lid to compress the ham loaf until it is completely cooled. Unwrap and cut into thin slices. Serve cold or warmed.


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