Where Does Ham Come From On A Pig?

Ham is a type of pork cut from the hind or rare leg of a pig. It is either fresh or preserved through a curing process that involves salting, smoking, or drying. To further clarify, a ham refers to a specific cut of pork, not how it is cured or cooked. It comes from a pig’s back thigh or rump, so there are just two per animal.

A compact source of high-grade animal protein, and has available energy ranging from 1,200 to 2,600 calories per pound. According to the USDA, It is a good source of thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin, niacin, iron, phosphorus, and calcium. 

In this article, I will discuss ham, where it comes from on a pig, its origin, what it tastes like, and various cuisines you can make with ham.

What is ham?

Ham is a slice of pork cut from the hind leg of a pig. Cured ham, fresh ham, Black Forest ham, country ham, and hickory-smoked ham are some of the several forms of ham.

Ham is widely consumed worldwide as it is a processed meat that can be served for breakfast and even at a holiday dinner. It is prepared by curing raw pork, then smoking and seasoning it in any way you like.

Origin of ham

The word ham originates from the old English “hom” or “hamm,” which means the hollow or bend of the knee. During the 15th century, this word started being used to refer to the cut of pork from a pig’s hind leg.

There are many theories surrounding the origins of ham. China takes credit for curing the first pork leg back in 4900 B.C. Enthusiasm for ham spread throughout ancient Europe with the Romans, who learned of the practice while trading with the Chinese.

What does ham taste like?

Ham has a slight sweetness to its taste. Although ham’s flavor is savory and rich, ham always has that hint of sweetness no matter how prepared.

The taste of ham varies depending on how it is prepared and served. Yet, all types of ham have a few common flavors to them. 

Because ham comes from the round, large muscles of a pig’s hind leg, every type of ham has a fleshy texture. Whether smoked or oven-roasted and sliced thinner than a piece of paper, your ham will have a sturdy density to it.

What are the uses of ham?

Ham is mostly used in its sliced form to fill sandwiches in the United States. Specifically, the ham and cheese sandwich is the lunchtime staple for a majority of Americans. 

Other ham sandwiches include toasted sandwiches such as the Cubano, which uses two types of pork, melted Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard to create a tangy, tart meal.

Ham is also found in pizza toppings in the States, such as the Hawaiian-style pizza, which features ham and pineapple. In other places, ham is a centerpiece in traditional dishes.

What are the various types of ham?

1. Bayonne ham

The Bayonne ham is a boneless French ham that is salty, and this is because it is salted and then dried for a long period of time. This ham is named for Bayonne, a port city in France, and it tastes best sliced on buttered bread. 

2. Black Forest ham

This ham is named after an area in Germany because it was first produced there. The outside of this ham is blackened, it is a boneless ham seasoned with juniper berries, pepper, garlic, and coriander and salted before it is cured and then cold smoked. 

3. Capicola

Capicola is an Italian cured ham, also called capocollo or coppa. It is a cross between prosciutto and sausage, It is found in most Italian delis and gourmet food shops and is one of the most delicious meat slices you can put on a sandwich.

4. Cooked ham

This ham is not smoked, it is usually boiled or steamed. Cooked ham is likely the ham you get when you are eating lunch meat. 

5. City ham

City ham is a wet cured ham that is typically smoked. This is the type of ham you will most likely find at the grocery store. These types of hams can be referred to as supermarket hams. 

It is pre-cooked, all you have to do is heat them at a low temperature. You can eat city ham cold or cook it in a skillet. 

6. Country ham

Country ham is popular in the southern region, it is dried, cured, and aged for a minimum of 70 days. Salt is used in the drying and curing process. 

These hams are not cooked but can still be eaten. It is smoked on fragrant hardwood and aged for a period of two to three months, and this process preserves the ham. A country ham tastes salty and has a dry texture.

7. Honey ham

Honey ham may also be called maple ham. It is well cured and uses a sweetener that at least half of it consists of maple syrup or honey, and this process usually creates a glaze on it. 

Honey ham has a savory taste to it. You often find them pre-cooked, but you will need to reheat them.

8. Irish ham

This ham is a product of Belfast, Ireland, an area famous for brining or pickling hams. It has a unique flavor because they are smoked with a peat fire. Before this ham is eaten, they are soaked, scrubbed, simmered, and baked.

9. Culatello

Culatello is an Italian cured ham often found in an antipasto. This ham is soaked in wine during its aging process. It has a clean flavor and is a lean meat cut. 

10. Prosciutto

Prosciutto is an Italian ham, and the word “Prosciutto” means ham. It is usually seasoned, air-dried, salt-cured, then pressed to create a dense and firm texture. Prosciutto is not smoked, the truest of this ham comes from the Parma region. It is called Prosciutto di Parma.

SEE: If You Can Refreeze Ham Even After Thawing It

How is ham different from pork?

The major difference between ham and pork is their cut. Although pork and ham are obtained from pigs, they are still different from each other. 

They also differ in texture, and cooking methods and their appearance can differ significantly. Pork refers to the meat that belongs to any portion, but ham specifically refers to the shank or posterior region. 

Another major difference between ham and pork is their shelf lives. As ham is salted and cured, it has a far greater shelf life than raw pork.

SEE: Signs to Tell That Your Pork Is Bad


Is it possible to get ham from a cow?

No, you can’t get it from cows. Ham is gotten from the hind of a pig and not cow.

Is it bad to eat ham?

No, it is not. But always moderate your portion, as excess intake is associated with an increased risk of colon cancer.

What can you cook with ham?

They are a favorite in eggs, as well as in chowders and casseroles.

Conclusion: Where does ham come from on a pig?

Ham is the meat cut from the hind shank of a pig, but it is sold in various styles and flavors. If the ham is freshly cut and is not cured or has not gone through any processing, it is raw or fresh. 

It is advisable not to eat raw ham as it can cause various illnesses. Cured, baked, or smoked hams are pre-cooked, and you can eat them the way they are, but wet-cured ham needs to be put in an oven and heated before eating.

I hope you enjoyed this article, you should also see what happens when you eat bad ham.

Thank you for reading.