Processed pork – Welcome to pork heaven!
Ham, Gammon, Bacon, Sausages and Spare Ribs. All your pork favourites.
Dry-cured ham; wet-cured ham; smoked, cooked, uncooked and boiled ham; gammon… The terminology is enough to boggle the mind. After all, ham is simply a type of pork meat that, when sliced, goes on a sandwich or, when whole, is served as a roast. That may be true, but the different types of hams lend themselves to different food applications.
Ham is available in bone-in, semi-boneless and boneless varieties.
Bone-in ham can form part of the butt or shank, or be a whole or half leg that has the hip, thigh and/or shank bone attached. Because of the bone, this ham is more flavourful.
In semi-boneless or partially boned ham the hip or shank bone has been removed from the primal leg cut, making it easier to carve. Again, the remaining leg bone gives the ham more aroma.
Boneless ham is round, oblong or rectangular in shape and has the hip, thigh and shank removed, as well as most of the fat. Boneless hams are easier to carve and are meant to be sliced, making them perfect for sandwiches, but lack the flavour found in bone-in hams. The texture of boneless ham is also altered by the processing methods employed to remove the meat from the bones.
Fully cooked ham is labelled as such, or “Ready to Eat” or “Heat and Serve”. This is a ham that has been heated to an internal temperature exceeding 64°C during some part of its processing.
Partially cooked ham has been heated during some part of its processing to an internal temperature above 58°C but below 64°C. Additional cooking prior to eating is required, heating the ham to an internal temperature of 71°C.
Uncooked ham has not reached an internal temperature beyond 58°C during processing and requires more preparation and cooking time.
Boiled ham has been boned, cured and fully cooked by boiling the ham in water and is ready to serve.
Then there is the distinction between fresh and cured hams.
A fresh ham, in other words not cured as is typically the case, nor smoked, is the less salty choice and, if uncooked, best prepared as a roast. Cooked fresh hams require no preparation – just slice and serve. This is also the kind of ham you should recommend to customers for smoking on the Weber.
Dry-cured hams are cured by rubbing salt, spices, sugar, phosphates, and sodium nitrate and nitrate on the surface of the ham, and may be smoked. The ham is then hung to dry to allow it to age. Depending on the variety of ham, the aging process can be a few weeks to over a year, but by and large, the aging process is six months.
The loss of moisture during the aging process of dry-cured ham produces a more intensely flavoured and deeply coloured ham. Given the saltiness of dry-cured hams, they are generally soaked for 12 to 24 hours before they are cooked.
Mold is a natural occurrence on aged hams, as is the case with aged cheeses, and signifies proper curing, and does not mar the taste or quality of the product. After soaking, the ham is washed thoroughly in warm water and a stiff brush is used to remove any remaining surface mold.
The ham can then be cooked on the stovetop in water – simmering, not boiling – for about 25 minutes per 500 g or until 72°C internal temperature. Water as needed must be added to cover the ham. For oven cooking, the ham must be placed skin-side up in a roaster to which water is added.
After stove or oven cooking, the ham is ready for the oven – pre-heated to 64°C and baked for 20 minutes per 500g or until 22°C internal temperature. After cooling, the ham may be glazed. Wet or brine-cured hams are cured by soaking or injecting with water and a curing solution of sodium nitrite and nitrate to produce the desired rosy colour and unique flavour associated with ham, salt, sugar, honey and seasoning. The ham is then cooked to an internal temperature of 65°C and sold as “ready to eat”.
A sweet-savoury glaze is often applied to a pre-cooked brine-cured ham before baking at 60°C; 71°C for uncooked brine-cured hams.
Gammon is cured hind leg of pork and available smoked, unsmoked, on-the-bone, and boned and rolled. As it is an uncooked product, it must be baked in a 220˚C oven.
Black Forest Ham, produced in the Black Forest region of Germany, is a dry-cured, smoked pork leg. It is ready for serving cold, in a casserole, or lightly sautéed in butter or olive oil. Boiled potatoes or potato salad with crisp bacon and sautéed onions are traditional German side dishes.
Italian hams coppa and prosciutto are typical additions to an antipasto plate, served drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and enjoyed together with other cured Italian meats. Thinly sliced prosciutto is also a sandwich ingredient and, like bacon, serves as a wrap for holding other foods.
Coppa is a salted, seasoned, dry-cured thinly cut pork shoulder or neck. Prosciutto, also known as Parma Ham, is a dry-cured ham from the hind leg of a hog or boar that cures during air drying for a year to three years. Prosciutto is never cured with nitrites or nitrates – only sea salt is used. As is the case with biltong, the characteristic colouration is produced by certain bacteria.
Bacon is a cured and smoked or unsmoked cut from side and back cuts of pork, as well as the belly. We all know what to do with rashers, but don’t forget whole bacon – delicious when baked.
Pancetta is a substitute for bacon and a key ingredient in pasta carbonara. This traditional Italian pork belly cut is salted and spiced, rolled up and dry cured. It is served thinly sliced or diced for use in pasta recipes.
Kassler, Eisbein and Schnitzel
German pork products are loved the world over for their unique taste and variety.
Kassler or Kasseler, the salted and slightly smoked cut of pork obtained from the neck, loins, ribs, shoulders or belly of a pig. Eisbein, pickled ham hock, is usually boiled and then grilled for 30 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown. Both Kassler and Eisbein are traditionally served with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes.
In German-speaking countries, the word “Schnitzel” means “cutlets” and doesn’t only refer to flour-dusted, beaten egg-coated, breaded and fried varieties. The term “Wiener Schnitzel” a protected geographical description in Austria and Germany and can only be made of veal. It is customarily garnished with a slice of lemon and served with either potato salad or potatoes with parsley and butter.
When pork is used, which is almays always the case in Germany, the dish must be called Wiener Schnitzel vom Schwein or Schnitzel nach Wiener Art to differentiate it from the veal original. The boneless pork chop is usually served with mashed potato, French fries, or wedge potatoes.
Varieties of German Schnitzel include:
JägerSchnitzel (hunter’s Schnitzel) is topped with mushroom sauce, but the word may also refer to an eastern German variant made of Jagdwurst.
NaturSchnitzel (natural Schnitzel) is peppered and salted and contains no sauce or only a simple one such as pan drippings to which sour cream may be added).
RahmSchnitzel (cream Schnitzel) comes with a cream sauce, often containing some mushrooms.
Vegetarisches Schnitzel (vegetarian Schnitzel) is a meatless patty made from soy, tofu, or seitan (wheat gluten).
ZigeunerSchnitzel (gypsy Schnitzel) or PaprikaSchnitzel (bell pepper Schnitzel) has a sauce containing tomato, bell peppers and onion slices.
Pork bangers and spareribs
Last but definitely not least, the deli counter would be incomplete without pork bangers and spareribs.
Spareribs are obtained from the belly of the hog and are unbeatable whether smoked or marinated, grilled, baked or prepared on the coals.
Source – The Butcher