What Is Country Ham—And What Makes It ‘Country?’

Here's what you need to know.

<p>R Scott James / Alamy Stock Photo</p>

R Scott James / Alamy Stock Photo

There are plenty of types of ham out there, and to the untrained eye, they may all blur together. But the beauty of the varieties lies in their subtle differences, and country ham is no different. Take a closer look at this reliable favorite.

What Is Country Ham?

Country ham is dry-cured with salt and often smoked, and it is particularly popular in the South. These hams can be aged for years, and this kind of preparation goes way back—per Clify Farm Country Meats of Tennessee, the curing originated decades ago before refrigeration was common and families needed a way to preserve their fresh pork.

Soup Loving Nicole
Soup Loving Nicole

What Does Country Ham Taste Like?

Smoky, dry, and salty—between the salt it’s cured in, the fragrant hardwoods used to smoke it, and the number of years it is often aged, this ham can have a pretty intense flavor. It can also be made from pigs that have been fed fruits and nuts to produce an even more flavorful meat.

How to Cook Country Ham

This type of ham does particularly well if it’s cooked low and slow in an oven or a slow cooker. Nestle a bone-in cut into your favorite herbs, spices, syrups, and ciders, and let it simmer—it can hold its own against some serious flavor. On the flip side, it can also be sliced and pan-fried (or even baked into pastries).

Some recipes will ask you to soak this type of ham in the refrigerator to neutralize its most intense saltiness, so be sure to plan ahead and check if this should be part of your process.

Check out some of these options, and don’t forget to save any drippings for gravy!

Soup Loving Nicole
Soup Loving Nicole

Where to Buy Country Ham

Though you may be able to find true country ham at major grocers, it can be tricky as some stores primarily sell “city hams,” which are wet-cured as opposed to dry-cured. I encourage checking out your local farmers and butchers—you'll get a quality product, support local folks, and get to chat with the pros about whether it’s exactly what you want and how it can best be prepared.

How to Store Country Ham

Cooked country ham can be refrigerated for up to seven days, according to the USDA. It can also stay safe indefinitely if frozen, but it will taste better in the first month. Uncooked, cut country ham can be refrigerated for two to three months or frozen for one month. And believe it or not, the USDA says that a whole, uncut, dry-cured country ham can be stored safely at room temperature for up to one year!

Read the original article on All Recipes.