March has a little less than a week left and while you’re probably not “actively” thinking about the upcoming Easter holiday, it may be on your radar or in the back of your mind. While it might happen, I’ve never heard of any family, at least around here, offering a vegetarian alternative to Easter dinner!
For the most part, much like the turkey at Thanksgiving, the Easter ham is the overwhelming favorite with a few opting for a leg of lamb instead. Hams are primarily found in two major categories: boneless and semi-boneless.
In my estimation, and that of many people, the flavor of a semi-boneless ham is superior to the boneless ham. It has the hip bone and tailbone removed leaving only the thigh bone – hence the name, “semi-boneless”. It’s also cut from the hind leg of the pig which contains all the edible portions, including bone and fat. Semi-Boneless Hams are also often juicier than their boneless counterparts. The big “con” of course is the waste, but you can minimize any waste by saving the well-trimmed ham bone for making a hearty soup!
Boneless hams are a product derived from processed pork, formed into the shape of a ham and then sold without bones or much fat. The benefits are that it’s easy to slice and the slices can be thin for sandwiches or thicker for steaks – anywhere in between! There’s usually a little difference price on the boneless hams since some effort and work goes into their creation. A spiral ham can be boneless or bone-in but its sliced “spirally” from top to bottom making it somewhat easier to remove the individual slices.
Unless it specifies “fresh ham” all hams are generally smoked or cured making them safe to eat as long as they’ve been properly cured and refrigerated. Curing involves, salt, smoking and/or fermentation which prevents the growth of bacteria. However, most people bake their hams before eating just to be sure. Reading the label on your ham’s packaging is the only way you can be absolutely sure if it’s been cooked or not. When a ham requires cooking, it will be specified on the label, often with instructions for cooking. If concerned the internal temperature should reach 140-145°F and then allowed to rest a bit before serving.