27.12.07

Not about Ham acting but Ham selection tips

Filipino Christmas holidays will not be the same without hams. Rich, middle class or less privileged, all families just love the idea of including ham for the Christmas or New Year's eve festivities.

I saw this site with excellent tips in selecting ham. So if you've run out of ham for New Years here are some practical tips in getting it good:

"Ham comes from the rear leg of the pork carcass. Not all the cured product from the pork carcass is ham. The picnic (cured lower portion of the front leg), bacon (cured belly), and Canadian bacon (cured loin) are not considered ham.

In curing, sodium nitrite, salt, and sugar are mixed with water to form the "brine" or curing solution. This solution is then "pumped" into the ham for uniform distribution of the brine. After several days of curing, the product is washed free of excess brine, cooked, and sometimes smoked. This process is known as a commercial cure."

In the United States, "commercial processors are inspected continuously by the USDA to make sure the finished product does not contain more than 200 parts per million nitrite.

However, processors may, in response to customer desires, vary salt and sugar proportions, length and method of curing, smoking, and other processing techniques to produce a product that is unique to their particular brand.

The nitrites meat processors use to cure hams are approved by the Food and Drug Administration as safe food additives.

Types of Commercially Cured Hams

1. Fresh vs. cured. The "uncured ham" should be labeled "pork leg" (fresh ham) and is hereafter referred to as "fresh ham." If the hind leg is to be cured, it may be a commercial cure as described above or a country cure. Country cured hams are prepared with a dry cure. After a long and expensive curing and aging period, the country ham is sold to consumers who desire the special flavor, dryness, and saltiness of the product.

2. Canned vs. noncanned. Both canned and noncanned hams are sold. If you buy a canned ham, the weight quoted will be the net weight; that is, the ham weight excluding the can.

3. Bone-in vs. boneless. Hams may be sold intact including all bones. However, some people do not use ham bones, and most people are not proficient in carving and may prefer a boneless ham. Bone-in hams are always non-canned, whereas boneless hams may be canned or non-canned.

4. Half vs. portion. Some bone-in hams are large and thus are reduced in size. If a ham is cut in half, the resulting products should be sold as a rump half and a shank half. If one or more of the meaty center slices is removed and sold separately, the resulting products should be sold as a rump portion and a shank portion. A shank portion will have more connective tissue than a rump portion.

5. Regular vs. additional water. The brine used in curing is, of course, mostly water. The large amount of water uniformly distributes the curing ingredients throughout the ham in a short period of time. During the curing, smoking, and cooking processes, all of the added water is normally lost. However, some hams do not lose all of the water from the brine.

USDA regulations require processors to label hams with different names if more than a normal amount of water is retained after processing. The requirements for labeling are based on a minimum protein content of the ham after taking into account the fat content (this is known as protein fat-free or PFF).

The following are the names allowed for various minimum PFF percentages

Ham 20.5
Ham With Natural Juices 18.5
Ham Water Added 17.0
Ham and Water Product — X% of Weight is Added Ingredients less than 17.0 (Search Me, I don't know what this means) :-)

6. Perishable vs. nonperishable. All non-canned hams are perishable and must be refrigerated at all times by retailers and consumers. Most canned hams are perishable and also must be kept under refrigeration. They are labeled 'Perishable: keep under refrigeration.'

Some canned hams are pasteurized and do not require refrigeration. Such hams may be stored at room temperature almost indefinitely since the product is sterile and recontamination is not possible unless the can is opened, punctured, or torn. Such products are usually, but not always, labeled 'Does not require refrigeration.' When in doubt, always refrigerate."

Locally, meaning in the Philippines, commercially prepared hams come from:

1. Excelente
2. Majestic
3. King Sue
4. Adelina's in Mandaluyong
5. Purefoods
6. Swift?
7. Hoc Shu?

Our is Excelente for two straight years. Other years? Majestic, Adelina's, King Sue.

More valuable information are available here.
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