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Where can I buy a good quality ham for the holidays?

I'm having a holiday party and would like to serve ham. Where locally can I buy one - good quality, smoked or not, brined, etc. If not locally, where online can I order one?


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  1. Best I've had in recent years was a Niman bone-in. They have a few variations:


    The boneless is also good, but not as good. I think you can order these from any butcher that sells their stuff.

    1. Prather Ranch sells a very tasty smoked ham made from humanely raised Berkshire pigs. You likely would need to call them to specify the size required--availability is variable.

      1 Reply
      1. re: moto

        this might be heresy, but for the price, I really like Costco's spiral ham

        1. re: mustardgirl

          Does Trader Joe's sell whole hams? I've only seen slices.

        2. It's not upscale at all, but I've gotten some really nice hams at the Lucky Pork Store on Mission Street at 23rd. You can get a whole or half leg (probably best for a party) or a picnic shoulder (tastier, but messy and smaller).

          The last time I took one (a whole leg) to a potluck supper the instigator asked if she could take the rest home with her for her family.

          2659 Mission Street
          SF, CA
          (415) 285-3611

          1. If you are in the East Bay there is the Honey Baked Ham store on Piedmont Ave.

            1 Reply
            1. re: skwid

              Honey Baked is pretty good but Niman has more flavor.

            2. Once you get it, cheap or spendy, I can vouch for this recipe:


              2 Replies
              1. re: lexdevil

                I wonder if this glaze would work on a precooked ham. I won't have time to cook my own ham that morning but I think I"m going to give this glaze a try. Thanks!

                1. re: mayamoo

                  Smoked ham is precooked. A glaze like that will caramelize over the 3-1/2 hours in the oven.

              2. Fatted Calf sells smaller 1 - 2 pound picnic (shoulder) hams at the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market on Saturdays. I believe they are making a special holiday visit to the market on Tuesday the 22nd as well.

                2 Replies
                1. re: farmersdaughter

                  Fatted Calf's hams are tiny, at my house they'd serve two as a main course or four as an appetizer.

                  1. re: farmersdaughter

                    In addition to being small, I thought the Fatted Calf ham was pretty 'meh'.

                    I haven't tried it but Nordic House in Oakland sells a special Christmas Danish ham. It must be pre-ordered

                    So far everything I've tried that Nordic House makes in-house has been very good. You can always ask them if they have a sample but I'm not sure

                    Oakland: Nordic House - free, fresh, hot Aebleskiver and other snacks for annual customer appreciation days

                  2. A lot depends on what you consider a "really good ham". I think the spiral ham at Costco is pretty good, but for "real" ham, get one from Virginia. Keep in mind that with a bone-in ham, there will be waste (signficant waste). The Virginia "country ham" is superb (less salt than Smithfield). Unfortunately, once you've had it, you can't go back to what sadly passes for ham in California.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: OldTimer

                      To me, country ham and regular ham like Niman or Honeybaked are completely different dishes. Country ham needs to be sliced thin and served on the right kind of biscuits, and most people can't eat a whole lot of it. If you're hosting a party, it's a whole lot more work than just putting a spiral-sliced ham on the buffet.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        I love real country ham, but some people don't like it at all because of its very assertive flavor. I like Robert's suggestion for serving it for a party. I grew up eating (not often; a special treat) slabs of Missouri country ham, but that's probably only for people who grew up with it. I did that again one night in September when I was back there for a family wedding. I drank a lot of water the next day.

                    2. Thanks everyone for the recommendations. I'm going to look at Niman and Smithfield.

                      18 Replies
                      1. re: mayamoo

                        If you are considering a country ham, in addition to Smithfield, check out Benton hams (available online) which are the best quality country ham I've had.

                        1. re: mayamoo

                          If you don't have time to cook, a country ham is out.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Au contraire, Robert. No sane person actually cooks a country ham, unless he/she is incredibly naive. If you have ever cooked a real ham from scratch, you will never do it again. That is why cooked country hams are so popular. They are, however, very rich and go a long way. Sliced thinly on tea biscuits it is the ultimate party fare.

                            1. re: OldTimer

                              I've cooked country ham, it's not much more of a challenge than regular ham. You just soak it four a couple of days and simmer it for a few hours, and brown it.

                              The pre-sliced vacuum-sealed packets from Smithfield are convenient, but not very festive.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Interestingly enough, Saveur 's December issue has an article (and cover) on Ham for the Holidays. They have Smithfield, Edwards, Honey Baked and Chefs Pride listed (among many others) in their Pantry section. Will I have to soak ham days before consuming? Even the ones that have been smoked and seasoned or just country ham?

                                1. re: mayamoo

                                  Only old-fashioned country ham needs to be soaked.

                                  Chinese markets usually have chunks of Smithfield-type ham in the freezer.

                                  1. re: mayamoo

                                    There is some confusion about the name "Smithfield". Many mediocre foods are branded "Smithfield" because they are the products of a company in the Va/ NC area with that name. You see bacon called "Smithfield" which is just plain old bacon. There are a number of Smithfield hams sold by authentic packers...Gwaltny, Luters, etc. They usually are only sold mail order outside Va. Uncooked bone-in hams are a lot of work and waste. Most people these days order hams cooked, some boneless. If you are curious, order several packets of sliced Smithfield or country ham. No waste. Smithfield ham if very salty and rich, Va. country ham is much milder. You do not eat slabs of Smithfield ham...only thin slices.

                                    1. re: mayamoo

                                      I saw whole Gwaltney country hams at the Richmond Ranch 99 for about $4.50 a pound which is much cheaper than what I just found online. About 2 1/2 feet long so I think you'd need to use a hacksaw to cut away the shank and foot in order for it to fit into an oven, not to mention of a vessel to soak it in.

                                      1. re: PorkButt

                                        My Virginian MIL used to use the bathtub.

                                        1. re: farmersdaughter

                                          I thought they needed several days of soaking.

                                        2. re: PorkButt

                                          Just a note: the Chinese markets tend to have front legs which are usually cheaper and not quite so attractive for the dining table.

                                          1. re: sfbing

                                            The front leg is called a picnic ham and is less expensive. There's no mistaking the two.

                                            1. re: PorkButt

                                              This is referring to Jamon Iberico but probably applies to our home grown hams.
                                              "You may wonder about the difference between front and back leg. It’s very simple: the back leg is bigger in volume and cures a bit longer, has a more even distribution of moist and flavor, more muscle meat and finally is less complicated to carve (if you choose a bone-in leg)."

                                              1. re: PorkButt

                                                You rarely see smoked picnics around here. You may find a Smithfield shoulder in a Chinese market. They do not cook Smithfield ham or shoulder as in the South. They use the meat primarily for seasoning, since it is virtually identical to Chinese ham. The shoulder is very fatty, however. A genuine Smithfield ham is from a razorback hog, turned loose in the peanut fields around Smithfield. Planter's Peanuts originated in Suffolk, nearby. The Virginia country ham is more moist, and need not be from a razorback. Both require extensive soaking and cooking, and have a fair amount of mold which is inedible. I have always recommended purchasing the ham cooked, bone in or boneless. Most convenient, of course, is the presliced packets. Yum.

                                                1. re: OldTimer

                                                  The Fatted Calf picnic hams are brined and smoked. As Robert said they are small (1 - 2 lbs each) but they are delicious on a buffet - just get more than one.

                                                  1. re: farmersdaughter

                                                    Would you want to glaze the Fatted Calf ham? And if not how would you go about warming them, or would you?

                                                    1. re: Missmoo

                                                      The Fatted Calf hams are cured but uncooked. They estimate 22 minutes a pound at 300 degrees. They're very nicely seasoned, I don't think they need anything else.

                                                      They're only 1-2 pounds so they won't hold their heat on a buffet the way a big ham does.

                                2. The best ham I've ever had without question is from Snake River Farm. It had more flavor than I've ever tasted but it is mail order.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: cakebaker

                                    I believe the Snake River Farm is Kurobuta pork (Berkshire). Rosengarten is also mentioned...but it's pricey.


                                    1. re: ML8000

                                      Agree on the Snake River Farm ham and it is Kurobuta. I actually just recommended it on another thread.

                                      1. re: emily

                                        I just checked Snake River out and it is definitely pricey. I also clicked on the Applewood Smoked Berkshire Ham from Eden Farms. So many choices now.

                                        1. re: mayamoo

                                          I know it's expensive but the flavor and texture of this ham is truly memorable. I don't know how many you are serving but I've ordered the 1/2 ham many times. It's really special and worth the money. The only problem is it will spoil you for other hams.

                                  2. Just to give you one more option, Boccalone does a piccolo cotto, or gently brined and herbed ham that they then cook very carefully for you. They're extremely moist and delicious, though pretty expensive. They serve 5 eaters with some leftover, or 6 eaters if they have moderate appetites.

                                    Here's their description from the email blast:
                                    "Boccalone Piccolo Cotto – this delicious ham is brined with our special spices and then cooked slowly. Already cooked and ready to eat, it has a light, delicate taste that everyone will enjoy. You can slice it and serve it cold or gently warm it in the oven topped with our recipe for Prosciutto Cotto Glaze. Each Piccolo Cotto is approximately 3 pounds and priced at $49."

                                    1. I like to order hams (and bulk orders of bacon, jowl etc.) from Burgers Smokehouse in California, Missouri. They have a fair selection of styles and some range of size. I like the Country Cured ham (not the traditional country ham although they have that, I haven't tried it) Their City cure is a nice mild ham for those transitioning from more supermarkety types. All prices include shipping. I took a tour of their plant this last summer and they are still family run and couldn't have been nicer. Easily found on line. Second cut bacon and end packs are good bargains for those that like that.

                                      1. Has anyone tried ham from Dittmer's in Mountain View? I've had pretty good luck with some of their other pork products (slab bacon, hocks for beans, a smoked shoulder for pea soup).

                                        1. There is a butcher shop across Monterey Market in Berkeley I forgot the name but they smoke ham on premises absolutely the best

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Freedom

                                            Wow. So many brands and suggestions. What are the prices of these hams?

                                            1. re: baron45

                                              510 528-6370

                                              Magnani Poultry
                                              1576 Hopkins St, Berkeley, CA

                                            2. re: Freedom

                                              Magnani Poultry has started smoking its own hams?

                                            3. Ordered a 16 lb bone-in fresh pork roast from Whole Foods for Thanksgiving and had them bone and butterfly it so I could stuff it. They get their hams from Niman Ranch. It cost $2.99 lb and it was so worth it!

                                              1. Grocery Outlet has a fully cooked spiral ham from Arkansaw for $1,29 a LB
                                                Bought a 5 plus for about $7

                                                1. Mayamoo...after reading the various posts and your responses I'm a little unclear what you are hoping to find. are you looking for a fresh ham...which is uncured and cooks like a pork roast meaning the flesh will be white when done? Or are you looking for a ham cured in some way? there are various ways of preserving hams...smoking and in the case of country hams...salt which is why they need to be soaked. To me, once you decide what type you like then it becomes a question of cost, texture and flavor. While I have used a variety of glazes including the Monte's from Saveur..they will add flavor and make the ham look beautiful but nothing can correct a ham loaded with water. They have a texture that is spongy and wet and not palatable to me. Also unless we've talking about the fresh ham...all others are cooked and only need to be heated in the oven to render some fat, glaze it and bring it up to temp which will take 12-15 min per pound. To me the SRF hams have a texture that is velvet and not spongy or stringy at all and as I have said the flavor has to be experienced. But having said that there are lots of choices so you need to be clear on what you want first and then make sure you heat it properly.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: cakebaker

                                                    mayamoo said "I won't have time to cook my own ham" in reference to a NY Times recipe that calls for four hours to reheat and glaze a 15-pound smoked ham.

                                                  2. Eat Real Fest people are holding a Pork Prom where you can pick up pre-ordered local heritage hams...