A spiral-cut ham seems right at home as the centerpiece of a hearty Easter meal. Of course, deliciously elegant substitutions exist , but why not have some fun with other kinds of cured or smoked pork? Ham, which comes from the hind thigh of the pig, is a cut revered internationally for its marbled fat content and complex flavors when cured, smoked, or cooked. So while picking up a prepared HoneyBaked ham is a perfectly acceptable option, consider giving these other options a try for some salty Easter goodness on a plate.
Black Forest ham
Prosciutto di Parma
- Derived from the Landrace white pig, Spanish jamón serrano is dry-cured at high altitudes. This "mountain ham" requires less salting and is considered one of the sweetest cured hams.
- Also from Spain, jamón ibérico comes from black Iberian pigs, and the ham's quality depends upon the pig's feed. The highest grade, jamón ibérico de bellota, cures for 36 months and comes from free-roaming pigs who eat only acorns. If you can find both serrano and ibérico hams, serve a tasting platter with manchego cheese and mixed olives.
- By comparison, Germany's Schwarzwälder Schinken, or Black Forest ham, cures for only one month in a seasoning mix of salt, garlic, coriander, juniper berries, and pepper. The meat is then cold-smoked over fir brush and sawdust for several weeks. Don't confuse this delicacy with the packaged Black Forest ham in the deli meat section: in Germany, properly cured Black Forest ham is served simply with bread and fruit.
- Chinese jinhua ham is produced in cooler temperatures over the course of eight to 10 months. The meat is ritually salted for about a month, washed and soaked, dried in the sun for a week, then ripened in a cool, moderately humid space for several months. Simmer jinhua ham and chicken for a rich wonton soup broth, or dice it and stir-fry with tender green vegetables like baby bok choy.
- Perhaps the most famous ham besides American country ham, prosciutto di Parma must be cured for a minimum of 12 months. During the curing process, the salted meat is sealed with pork fat to slow the drying. Sprinkle some sliced prosciutto into cream-based pasta sauces and atop pizzas, or enjoy it on its own with juicy melon.
Source: Flickr user gleam_df , Flickr user wirtschaftsteiermark , and Flickr user DannyBen