MELODY LAN is a member of THE NIBBLE editorial staff.
Updated March 2009
Best Hams: For The Holiday Or Any Day
With A Great Ham, Home Is Where The Ham Is
Page 1: Overview ~ What Is Ham?
CAPSULE REPORT: We tasted more than 40 artisan hams to winnow down our favorites to six. They are produced by, in alphabetical order, Bilinski, Ham I Am!, Nueske, Schaul, Snake River Farms’ Kurobuta Ham and Virginia Traditions. This is Page 1 of a six-page review. Click on the black links below to visit other pages.
At THE NIBBLE we take our job of tasting food very seriously. While it sometimes can be tempting to judge a product by the way it looks or even by its packaging, we insist on keeping an open mind until we’ve tasted it—innocent until proven guilty, if you will. But last month our open-mindedness was tested when we set out to find the best hams: we had almost as many bad-ham days as bad-hair days. As we tasted ham after ordinary ham, it became harder to muster enthusiasm about the next one. Some hams had beautifully marble-colored meat but were too salty or smoked. Others were pale in color with very little flavor. The more we tasted, the more the thought of serving ham at any holiday dinner became a distant option—especially since we knew all too well that we’d be eating that same mediocre ham in sandwiches, soups, casseroles, omelets, etc., for weeks to come.
Still, we persevered. And we’re glad we did: after several overly salty or smoky hams—and several gallons of water to wash them down—we finally found what we were looking for: succulent hams that we look forward to recycling in a number of dishes for weeks to come. Each ham that we’ve included in this review possesses its own distinct flair; you should be able to find one to please virtually every palate. In addition to our top ham picks, we’ve also provided a little background on the meat, including a bit of history, an explanation of different cuts and types, and tips on what to look for in a ham.
What is Ham?
While ham can refer to the haunch of any animal meat, what we most often refer to as ham is the upper haunch of the boar or pig; it is usually dry-cured, like country ham, or wet-cured, like city ham, and then boiled or smoked. Of course, there’s much more to ham than just these two categories, as you’ll see on Page 3.
Continue To Page 2: The History Of Ham
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