Questions about buying HAM
I was just reading the Rowe Farms thread and it reminded me that I was wondering about Ham . . . is there such thing as "better" ham to buy? I stopped buying hams from regular grocery stores and bought ham instead a couple of times at Fresh From The Farm. I assumed (and was only partially reassured by the retail staff) that the ham sold at FFTF was made with as few chemicals/preservatives as possible. Any thoughts or comments would be appreciated.
In my experience buying hams with less chemicals/preservatives doesn't necessarily mean it will taste better and if I've got a choice between a ham that tastes better and a ham that has less junk in it, I'll always go with the better tasting ham. That being said (and without having ever bothered to read the lable) the smoked vacum-sealed hams sold at Costco are the best store-bought hams I've ever had.
We get our hams from the Honey Glazed Ham Company (via Sherwood Market). I'm not sure exactly what goes into it, but their product info page says that, unlike most commercial hams, they use a natural smoking process and their ham is low in sodium and phosphates:
It's really delicious ham...far superior to anything I've bought at the grocery store (not cheap, but worth it).
Not cheap but very easy to reproduce at home. It's just a spiral-sliced, smoked ham with a sugar/spice mixture that's poured on the outside and turned into candy using a blow torch. Yes, they literally have people at Honey Baked Ham who do it with blow torches (saw a TV special on it). Do a Google search on "Honey Baked Ham recipe" and you'll find a whole whack of knockoff recipes.
Norfolk county is a good source of old fashioned hams. Grandgourmand recommends Townsend Butchers in another thread, but I don't have an adress. Here is the thread http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/646696
VG Meats http://www.vgmeats.ca/ has a prize winning ham made in a traditional old Ontario way.
The only preservatives needed to make ham are salt, sugar and smoke. Staedtlander does this, but it takes many days of low temperature smoking, and the color of the ham is pink at the surface, gray in the center.
Boodah, there is one brand of ham at Costco I don't like: Olympic; it seems to have a sharp taste, and it's just another M.L. brand, like their dogs.
The Kirkland ham from the U.S. seems to be better.
I've never had ham from Townsends. Not sure if they make it themselves.
the other preservative for ham is sodium nitrate. That's what keeps it pink and gives it the flavour everyone knows and loves in hame. There's a lot of diverging opinions on nitrates. i'm all for using them. But that's off topic.
Who owns kirkland?
I've been buying ham at FFTF recently, and it's the best ham I've ever tasted. (The people who were over for dinner when we've served it have begged us to do it again, saying that they 'dream' of that ham.) From what I've seen at FFTF, most hams are smoked, which in terms of chemicals/preservatives might not be what you're looking for.
I have to agree with tochipotle. As someone who has tasted many a ham, the best one was the one I purchased from FFTF last Easter. Really, truly delicious. Moist. Until someone convinces me otherwise, that's where I'm going for ham in the future.