Lienhart-Cross: Possibilities with ham
Posted: 12/24/2012 at 1:15 am
Food & Nutrition
I am sure it has to do with how I was raised and my education in consumer and family sciences from Purdue University, but I am always thinking of ways to keep from wasting foods and all the possibilities with planned-over or leftover foods. For many of you who lived through the Depression or those of you who were raised by parents who lived through it, being mindful of not wasting food is just a way of life. I am more aware of this as food prices continue to increase and meat costs more.
There are so many meats served during the holidays and there are many ways to use them together and often your family won’t even know. One of my first thoughts is stir-fried vegetables with whatever meat you have. Christmas in many homes means ham for the holiday meals. Historically ham was served at Easter because it was a meat that was preserved and one that the farmer or butcher still had in stock. In the days before refrigeration, much of the meat was salted or otherwise processed for long-keeping. Although you no longer need to store pork for long periods, you have developed a taste for the various hams and sausages created over the years.
The leg of fresh pork can be a fresh ham roast, pork steaks, leg cutlets, smoked ham, canned ham, or ham steaks. Fresh pork is cured in a variety of ways. Salting — either with a dry salt rub or with brine — draws out the natural moisture, making the meat inhospitable to harmful organisms. In addition to salting, pork is often smoked and/or air-dried to draw off additional moisture.
Although these curing processes were originally developed to yield pork that could be kept for long periods at room temperature, today’s methods usually do not cure pork to that degree. Hams and bacon are injected with brine to give them flavor. They are not sufficiently cured, however, to be stored at room temperature. They must be refrigerated. Exceptions are the county hams that are salted and aged in a procedure that may take up to one year. Italian-style prosciutto and Smithfield and Virginia hams are of this type.
Most hams today are labeled “fully cooked” and are ready to eat. They work great for a variety of ham recipes and can be served either cold or warm. Before a package is opened, it will stay fresh in the refrigerator for several weeks. Once the package is opened, it may be refrigerated, tightly wrapped, for up to five days, in the back of the refrigerator where it is colder. Ham does not retain its high quality for long in the freezer because of changes in flavor and texture; it dries out and becomes salty tasting. If you do freeze leftover ham, wrap it tightly in plastic and then place in a freezer bag and freeze. I suggest you cut and package the ham how you are going to use it. The ham will be best if used in two to three months.
It’s no surprise that ham is popular. Kids love the taste and people of all ages enjoy it. Three ounces of ham, which is a serving, is around a 120 calories and 4 grams of fat. The ham sandwich has been the No. 1 sandwich in America for more than 15 years, beating out even hamburgers and hot dogs for the top spot. For my ham sandwich I want to start with great-tasting bread with honey mustard or cracked pepper mustard and lettuce. The ham is fried in a cast iron skillet with a slice of cheese melted on top!
Another thought that comes to mind is ham and beans. Make sure to brown the ham in an iron skillet for more flavor. When you’re making your ham and beans try some different kinds of beans and even mixing the kinds. You can also brown the ham and freeze it for later use. You can add ham to a hot or cold pasta salad, breakfast casserole, or make ham gravy for biscuits. Get creative and try making different ham spreads: and add cranberry relish, fruit jelly, or even chutney. Chunks of ham can also be added to your favorite potato, broccoli, cheese or vegetable soup. Enjoy great-tasting food!
Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross is an Extension educator in consumer family science. Write to her at 17746 E. C.R. 34, Goshen, IN 46528; call 533-0554; fax 533-0254; or email email@example.com.