Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Aug 27, 2009 10:11 AM

Deli ham

If buying ham at a grocery store.....what type of general ham is best for sandwiches? I know the brands vary from store/state, so I'm generally talking type (ie..tavern, virginia,etc..) I never know which is the best tasting- most natural rather than plastic!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I usually recommend any good name-brand Virginia ham. For some, however, Virginia ham is too "sweet." These people are generally those who prefer a boiled ham. Now, most boiled ham is crap, but some (e.g., from Denmark) are delightful.

    1. My favorite is Boar's Head Black Forest Ham, but if I can't get that, I look for a Virginia ham.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Janet from Richmond

        I'm usually not a huge proponent of boar's head but I do love their black forest ham.

      2. I tend toward Virginia, but was recently pleasantly surprised when I tried Kretschmar "Off the Bone" ham when it was recently on sale at the deli counter. Not too familiar with them, but this was darn good. Looked like "real" ham and didn't taste processed.


        1 Reply
        1. re: ArizonaDave

          Safeway's slightly upscale brand Primo Taglio has Ham Off The Bone in Natural Juice which pretty decent considering the source. It's pretty much the only thing I'll get from their deli.
          If you're willing to pay for it, a lot of upscale stores will bring in local or artisan producers (like the Duroc Ham from Iowa that I simply adore and pay $13 a lb for in Oregon) that can be amazing - in those cases, I have no problem feeling secure enough to just explore and try new things because the quality is so high that most of it is guaranteed tasty.

        2. There's a brand called Shalen's. Their Smokhouse Ham is excellent and I suggest you give it a try if it's available in your area. Here in New Jersey, it's usally about $7/lb.

          1. Boar's Head black forest is excellent. By "Virginia" do you mean Smithfield or another country ham? I would think that would be too salty for sandwiches.

            17 Replies
            1. re: TomSwift

              "Virginia" ham is not necessarily country or salty ham.

              1. re: Janet from Richmond

                News to me! I've never heard of the term "Virginia" used to describe any ham other than a Smithfield or another country (as opposed to "city") ham. What does it mean? Other than the obvious, a ham from Virginia.

                1. re: TomSwift

                  Here in New Jersey supermarkets, Virgina Ham if often a boiled ham that has just been glazed and baked.....garnished with pineapple slices and Marashino Cherry.

                  1. re: TomSwift

                    It's often a lean, sweeter a honey ham.

                    1. re: Janet from Richmond

                      Thanks for the info. It sounds like you're describing what we have here in SoCal (although I think they're nation-wide) as Honey-Baked brand hams. No pineapple or cherry but spiral sliced and with a sweet glaze.

                2. re: TomSwift

                  Wow! Not to dispute Janet from Richmond - assuming that's Richmond, VA - but my experience with "Virginia" ham has never been one with a sweet taste. It's always been one of a salty, dry and flavorful, hammy meatiness. This, I've never been able to duplicate from a grocery store. Due to the low moisture content of a very long "production" cycle (curing and smoking), they are much too expensive for a grocery store to sell as the "everyday" ham.

                  The "sweetness" that is sometimes referred to may be due to the hogs being fed a diet of fruits. That's what I've been told anyway.

                  Perhaps Smithfield falls into the general category of Virginia hams, but it's on the very low end of quality, simply due to the short mass production cycle and excess moisture which naturally dilutes the deep flavor of the real deal.

                  All that said, you can certainly glaze a Virginia ham, but my gosh - for the price, what a waste. Whatever, please don't confuse them with Honey-Baked hams.....

         aka - Virginia ham

                  1. re: CocoaNut

                    Although Ms. Swift loves them, I once was tricked into eating some HB ham and thought I was eating fatty flannel. The Smithfields I've had have uniformly been salty, dry and thoroughly hammy flavorful. Sliced paper thin it's great eating. My one complaint - I haven't been able to compare different hams (from different states, cured different ways, fed different diets, etc) side by side because of the cost. Maybe I'll win the ham lottery.

                    1. re: TomSwift

                      Tom, I need to retract stating that Smithfield is on the "very" low end of quality. I should have added "relative to the very long aged hams". As grocery store quality goes, Smithfield is what I buy, as it's far superior to other brands found in the grocery stores. Their smoked pork chops are good too! :)

                      1. re: CocoaNut

                        I think we're confused here. I'm not talking about a grocery store ham with the brand name of "Smithfield" but rather the country hams that come from Smithfield in Virginia. There are a number of sources of these hams. I think one is called "The Smithfield Collection."

                    2. re: CocoaNut

                      I think you may be confusing your lovely Virginia Hams with a generic name for supermarket deli McHam that has been processed entirely differently.

                      1. re: CocoaNut

                        I am from Virginia and while we are best known for the country style, salty, dry hams...there are other Virginia hams that aren't that way

                        1. re: Janet from Richmond

                          I'm not trying to wage a smoked hog war here. Tom had stated a deduction above equaling the Virginia/country ham (preparation style, not geography) to the Honey-Baked ham. I am clarifying that there is a big difference in flavor - but not to say that honey glazed hams are not produced in Virginia as well as other states.

                          1. re: CocoaNut

                            I'm not either, but as a Virginia native we don't use the term "Virginia Ham" to refer to what was call "country ham". For us, it means that it's from here. Perhaps other regions are referring to country ham when they say "Virginia Ham" but I don't know as I am in Rome, so to speak.

                            1. re: Janet from Richmond

                              Well, I guess THAT has now been clarified for all to know! :) As it's 1:00 here, and I haven't had lunch, and with all thoughts on ham, I certainly wish I had some of those salty, dry slices to slap between two slices of bread with yellow mustard as the only condiment.

                              1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                Perhaps I can inject some closure into this tangent. When I hear and use the term "Virginia ham" I'm thinking of a country style ham (as opposed to a sweeter, less salty "city" ham) that comes from Virginia, whether it's from the town of Smithfield or not. It has no glaze and frequently must be soaked prior to cooking. The link provided by Janet above, while appealing, is not what I have in mind. Obviously, "country" hams can come from Arkansas, the Carolinas or any other place. I think that Sebetti's comment above is probably right. Now let's all go out and get ham sandwiches for lunch (here in SoCal) or a late lunch ( for those of you in Virginia.

                                1. re: TomSwift

                                  Getting a bit off subject, our daughter is getting married next spring and one item the caterer makes that everyone says we must have on the menu are the sweet potato and country ham biscuits. For ham sandwiches, I am happy with either salty or sweet ham depending on my mood, the bread, etc. but for ham biscuits I much prefer thin slices of country ham...mmmmmmmmmmm.

                                  1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                    Congratulations! I totally agree - I haven't had ham biscuts for about 15 years when I was in Tennessee. A real treat. Sweet potato sounds like a delicious addition. But we better stay on topic or the Mods will have a fit.