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The Many Types of Ham -- and How to Cook Them

Ham is essential for the holidays and just right for entertaining on a large scale at other times of the year. But it's easy to get confused about what type of ham will work best for your party, what ham you need for that recipe. We're here to help.

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You likely know that ham comes from the upper portion of the back leg of a pig. Did you know the different names refer to the way it’s been prepared? Pamela Johnson, director of consumer communications at the National Pork Board, explains the most common types:

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Photography by: Bryan Gardner

Fresh Ham

This is a piece of raw uncured pork, also often called a “green ham” or a “fresh leg of pork.” It has not been prepared; you can cure it yourself or just season and roast it like a turkey. Fresh ham tastes much like a pork roast. It doesn't have the smokiness found in other hams.

Get the Spice-Rubbed Fresh Ham with Citrus Glaze Recipe
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Photography by: Jonathan Lovekin

City Ham

This is the type most often found in supermarkets, labeled simply as “ham.” It has been wet-cured (in a solution that contains salt, sugar, and spices), then smoked. The salt pulls out moisture and concentrates the pork flavor. Tender and succulent, it’s the traditional Easter ham. Be sure to save leftovers for sandwiches.

Get the Glazed Ham with Horseradish Cream Recipe
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Photography by: John Kernick

Country Ham

Also called “southern-style” or “old-fashioned” ham, it is dry-cured -- rubbed with salt and spices -- and often smoked. It’s typically aged for six months, so it’s drier. It is very salty, so it’s usually soaked in cold water before cooking, and eaten in thin slices.

A country ham is a staple of Martha's Christmas Day Brunch Open House. She serves it with Honey Mustard and Lingonberry Jam, and plenty of Angel Biscuits. To serve the ham, Martha uses a special stand she bought in Paris years ago, but a carving board works just as well. 

Get the Recipe for Martha's Absolute Favorite Way of Baking Country Ham
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