What a Ham!

It’s usually cured, salty-sweet, and ready to eat, but what, exactly, makes a ham a ham?

By Liz Pearson

Published on August 29, 2007

To truly understand ham, New York butcher Frank Ottomanelli told us, you have to start at the beginning: the pig. Ham, he explained, comes from the hind leg of the animal, and a whole fresh ham typically weighs between 14 and 20 pounds.

A whole ham can be separated into two smaller parts—a good thing if you're serving fewer people and don't want leftovers. The shank-end ham is cut from the lower leg and tends to have more skin, or "rind"; the plumper and meatier butt-end ham is cut from the upper portion. Often the aitch bone, part of the pelvis, is still attached to the butt-end ham; it can be removed, which makes slicing easier.

But, Ottomanelli noted, a ham is still called a ham even if it's not cured or smoked—many cooks enjoy roasting a fresh, uncured ham.

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