Ham it up!

June 27th, 2015 1:35 am

First Posted: 3/26/2013

This weekend is a high volume weekend for grocery stores to sell hams. Ham is a traditional springtime food and, in years past, cured hams would be ready to eat in the spring and summer months.

Today, there are a wide variety of hams found on store shelves. According to USDA, hams may be fresh, cured, or cured and smoked. Ham is the cured leg of pork. Fresh ham is an uncured leg of pork. Fresh ham will bear the term “fresh” as part of the product name and is an indication that the product is not cured. “Turkey” ham is a ready-to-eat product made from cured thigh meat of turkey. The term “turkey ham” is always followed by the statement “cured turkey thigh meat.”

The usual color for cured ham is deep rose or pink; fresh ham (which is not cured) has the pale pink or beige color of a fresh pork roast; country hams and prosciutto (which are dry cured) range from pink to a mahogany color.

Here are some of the meanings of terms you might find on hams in the grocery store:

FULLY COOKED or COOKED: Needs no further cooking because it is fully cooked at the establishment where it was produced and packaged. Product can be eaten right out of the package or reheated. Fully cooked is synonymous with cooked.

HAM - WATER ADDED: The product is at least 17.0% protein with 10% added solution.

HAM with NATURAL JUICES: The product is at least 18.5% protein.

Both whole or half, cooked, vacuum-packaged hams packaged in federally-inspected plants and canned hams can be eaten cold, right out of the package. However, if you want to reheat these cooked hams, set the oven no lower than 325 °F and heat to an internal temperature of 140 °F as measured with a food thermometer.

Remember, reheat cooked hams packaged in USDA-inspected plants to 140 °F and all others to 165 °F. Read the label to find out if your ham was packaged in a USDA-inspected plant. Most purchased from a grocery store are packaged in a USDA plant.

Most leftover ham slices can be stored in the refrigerator for 3–5 days or frozen for 1-2 months according to USDA. If you have a lot of leftover ham, slice and freeze it for enjoyment a month or two from now.

To read more about hams, visit http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Ham.

Here are two recipes for ham leftovers. The ham and sweet potato skillet calls for canned sweet potatoes, but you can substitute fresh. The ham and navy bean soup is a great way to use the ham bone and boost your fiber with its beans. Enjoy!

Ham and Sweet Potato Skillet

¼ cup chopped onion

4 tablespoons olive or canola oil

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 (15.5-ounce) can pineapple chunks in natural juices,

drained, reserve juice

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

2 (15.5-ounce) cans sweet potatoes, drained

and sliced or 5-6 medium sweet potatoes boiled, peeled and sliced

1 cup (8 ounces) cooked ham, diced

Cook onion in oil for 2-3 minutes; stir in flour. Add reserved pineapple juice and water. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Stir in pineapple and brown sugar; top with potatoes and ham pieces. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Makes 4 Servings

Taken from and edited USDA commodity foods

Ham and Navy Bean Soup

8 ounces dried navy beans

6 cups water

1 ham bone

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, finely chopped

2 cups of chopped and peeled fresh carrots

2 bay leaves

1 ½ teaspoons dried tarragon leaves

¼ teaspoon black pepper

This is a two day recipe. Place beans in large bowl; cover completely with water. Soak overnight in the refrigerator.

Drain beans and discard water. Combine beans, water, ham bone, onion, carrots, celery, bay leaves and tarragon leaves in slow cooker.

Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. Discard the ham bone and bay leaves; stir in pepper. This serves 6.