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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.

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  1. 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.

    1. 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).

      2 Replies
      1. re: torontofoodiegirl

        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.

        1. re: Boodah

          To me, the thing about the ham that's so great isn't so much the sugar/spice mixture on the outside, it's the quality of the meat itself/the smoky and not overly-salty flavour...I imagine it would be quite an endeavour to try to replicate that at home.

      2. 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.

        3 Replies
        1. re: jayt90

          I don't specifically recall which one it is we buy, but I usually glaze them with molasses-bourbon-pecan and they're fabulous.

          1. re: jayt90

            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?

            1. re: grandgourmand

              Kirkland is the Costco house brand. They seem to rely on large producers such as Hormel and Maple Leaf.

          2. 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.

            3 Replies
              1. 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.

                1. With hams, i think, one of the secrets to find one that is minimally processed you need to seek out the hams that are still on the bone and, if possible, with the skin on. It's a little more work to carve but, to me it's a sign that the ham is still in the same arrangement that nature intended, in other words the muscles haven't been taken apart and put back together. When the ham is de-boned and put back together the process requires more additives or that the additives are worked in aggressively (which allows more water retention, and the ham just tastes like salt). Also, when you buy a boneless ham you can't always be sure that the ham is actually made from the muscles in the ham and not made from an emulsified pork scraps like a toupe ham, those things could be made out of anything and salt water. Any cured hams, by definition, will have salts and or sugars, and nitrates or nitrites and the flavorings, and usually be smoked.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: theboer

                    I doubt if many chowhounds are buying boneless pressed toupes.
                    Cured hams do not need nitrate, nitrites, or erythrobates. Ask Michael Staedtlander.

                    1. re: jayt90

                      True enough... the toupe is an extreme example.
                      I don't know about the nitrates/nitrites. I don't think you'd be able to buy a ham in a store (or want to) with out the the "cure". I don't think you'd be able to because without the nitrites there's a risk of botulism (especially if it's cold smoked), and you wouldn't want to because it'd be grey without the pinking that comes from the nitrite. A ham without the cure would be a "seasoned" piece of fresh ham wouldn't it?

                      1. re: theboer

                        Agreed, except that the ham would be smoked. There are still country hams like this in Kentucky, Tennessee and the Appalachians, but they they don't have to contend with our regulations. I think VG in Norfolk county (with nitrites) is worth a shot, but I have not headed out that way

                        1. re: jayt90

                          Right i forgot about the smoke. I've alway wondered what the Tennessee hams are all about... is that why we don't have them here?
                          Yeah, i agree a trip to VG Meat's might be called for, looks like there are a few other products that might be worth checking out. http://www.ontariomeatproducts.ca/sea...

                          1. re: jayt90

                            Answered my own question. Here's the link to the Tennessee Ham... a regional thing. http://www.chow.com/ingredients/432

                    2. Awesome. Thanks for the info. Glad to know there's a couple of other places I can try. I did get another ham from FFTF and it really was good. My kids gobbled it up. At least I know I can depend on getting a decent one there where I feel a little less guilty, but I look forward to trying hams from the places suggested too.