Ham is a beloved meat that has been a staple in many households for generations. However, with the rise of concerns over processed meats and their potential health risks, many people are looking for alternatives.
Enter uncured ham, also known as fresh ham. But what exactly is uncured ham, and how does it differ from its processed counterparts?
In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of uncured ham and why it may be a healthier and more flavorful option for your next meal.
So sit back, relax, and get ready to learn about what ham is not processed.
What Ham Is Not Processed?
When it comes to ham, many people assume that all types of ham are processed. However, this is not entirely true.
Uncured ham, also known as fresh ham, is a type of ham that is not injected with the same chemical brine, smoke, or flavorings that are used in cured meat. Instead, it is cured and processed with fresh sea salt, celery powder, beets, and natural seasonings. This natural curing process works to remove excess water from the meat and prevent it from spoiling.
Unlike its processed counterparts, uncured ham does not contain synthetic nitrates or artificial flavors. This makes it a healthier option for those who are concerned about the potential health risks associated with processed meats.
Additionally, uncured ham has a more natural and flavorful taste compared to cured ham. Throughout the natural curing process, the flavor and texture of the meat develop, turning the ham into a delicious treat that’s ready to eat.
It’s important to note that while uncured ham is not considered a processed meat, it still undergoes a curing process. However, this process is more natural and free of chemicals.
What Is Processed Ham?
Processed ham, on the other hand, is a type of ham that has been treated with various methods to preserve, flavor, and extend its shelf life. These methods include smoking, salting, curing, and adding chemical preservatives like nitrates and nitrites.
During the processing of ham, nitrates and nitrites are added to prevent the growth of bacteria and improve the color and flavor of the meat. However, when these chemicals are heated or cooked at high temperatures, they can form harmful compounds called nitrosamines which have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.
Processed ham also often contains high amounts of sodium, which can lead to health problems like high blood pressure and heart disease if consumed in excess.
Some common types of processed ham include deli ham, canned ham, and sliced ham found in supermarkets. These types of ham are often convenient and affordable but come with potential health risks.
It’s important to be aware of the differences between uncured and processed ham when making choices about what to include in your diet. Opting for uncured ham or other unprocessed meats may be a healthier choice for those looking to reduce their consumption of processed foods and potential health risks.
The Risks Of Processed Meats
Processed meats are a popular food choice for many people, but they come with some serious health risks. Studies have linked the regular consumption of processed meats to an increased risk of bowel and stomach cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The evidence is quite convincing that processed meats are more harmful than non-processed meats.
Processed meat is any meat that has been preserved or changed through smoking, curing, salting, or adding preservatives. This includes ham, bacon, salami, sausages, and even deli meats. These types of meat are high in salt and energy, which can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure and obesity.
One of the most significant risks associated with processed meats is their link to an increased risk of bowel and stomach cancer. Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers in Australia, and studies have shown that regular consumption of processed meats can increase the risk of developing this type of cancer.
Moreover, processed meats are also high in saturated fat and sodium, which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease. High intakes of saturated fat increase levels of harmful low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, while excess salt consumption raises blood pressure. Both LDL cholesterol and high blood pressure are well-established risk factors for coronary heart disease.
What Is Uncured Ham?
Uncured ham, also known as fresh ham, is a type of ham that has not been treated with salt, nitrates, or other preservatives. It is similar in appearance to cured ham, but it has a naturally occurring color that is slightly different. This is because the nitrates used in the brine of cured meat often increase the reddish-pink color of cured ham.
During the natural curing process of uncured ham, fresh sea salt, celery powder, beets, and natural seasonings are used to preserve the meat and prevent it from spoiling. This process works to remove excess water from the meat while developing its flavor and texture. The ham is hung in the open air to release its natural aromas, and pork fat is applied to the lean surface to preserve meat tenderness.
It’s important to note that while uncured ham is not considered a processed meat, it still undergoes a curing process. However, this process is more natural and free of chemicals. Since nitrite isn’t added as an independent ingredient, these products are considered “uncured” and labeled as “No Nitrates or Nitrites Added.” The molecules simply come from natural sources like celery powder, rather than man-made sodium nitrite and other manufactured chemicals.
When buying uncured ham, one major difference is that it has a naturally occurring color compared to the cured variety. It may also be more difficult to find than traditional cured ham, but it’s worth seeking out for its natural taste and health benefits. When shopping for uncured meats, look for an additional label of “sodium nitrate-free” to ensure that the product does not contain potentially harmful chemicals.
How Is Uncured Ham Made?
Uncured ham is made using a natural curing process that involves using fresh sea salt, celery powder, beets, and natural seasonings. The ham is hung in the open air to release its natural aromas and develop its flavor. Pork fat is applied to the lean surface, a process called breading, to preserve the meat’s tenderness.
During the natural curing process, uncured ham loses a good percentage of water and develops a better flavor. However, it does not lose as much water as cured ham, which means it has a shorter shelf life. Unlike cured ham, which is often injected with a mixture of chemicals such as sodium nitrate, sodium phosphate, potassium chloride, and sodium erythorbate along with other ingredients like salt, brown sugar, water, and flavorings, uncured ham does not contain any synthetic nitrates or artificial flavors.
The Health Benefits Of Uncured Ham
Uncured ham is a healthier option compared to cured ham due to its lack of synthetic nitrates and artificial flavors. The absence of these chemicals makes uncured ham less harmful to the body, reducing the risk of cancer and other health problems associated with processed meats.
Moreover, uncured ham is less salty than cured ham, making it ideal for individuals who are watching their sodium intake. It also contains a higher amount of natural flavor and texture, making it a more enjoyable eating experience.
The natural curing process used in uncured ham also helps to retain more nutrients and antioxidants compared to processed meats. While the curing process removes excess water from the meat, it also enhances the flavor and nutritional value of the ham.
Cooking With Uncured Ham
Cooking with uncured ham is just as easy as cooking with cured ham. In fact, most uncured hams are fully cooked before being sold, so all you really need to do is reheat it and serve it alongside your favorite recipe.
For an even more flavorful result, we recommend purchasing a spiral cut, honey glazed, uncured ham. This type of ham is made from 100% Berkshire meat, which is naturally uncured and glazed with sweet honey. It’s sure to be like nothing you’ve ever tasted before.
To bake an uncured ham in the oven, preheat your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the packaging from the ham and look for a small plastic disc under the bony part of the ham. If it’s there, take it out and discard it.
Place the ham into a roasting pan with the cut side facing down. The ham will need to bake for 13 to 16 minutes per pound until it reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If you want to add glaze to the ham, do so when there are 20 minutes left in the cooking time.
Once the ham is done cooking, take it out of the oven and allow it to rest for about 15 minutes before cutting it. This helps to keep the juices inside and keep the ham flavorful.
If you prefer using a crockpot, simply unwrap your fresh ham roast and give it a good rinse. Place it into your crockpot with a cup of water and set it to low heat for 7 hours. After cooking, let it cool and then shred the roast with two forks. Add cooking liquids to a small pot and simmer with seasonings, then season pork with liquid seasoning mixture.
Whether you’re baking or slow cooking your uncured ham, always use an instant-read thermometer to ensure that it’s cooked perfectly. Remember that fresh ham will have carryover cooking, so take it out when it’s about 10 degrees below your desired doneness based on this chart. The final temperature for medium-done ham should be 150 degrees Fahrenheit after resting for about 30 minutes.