Difference Between City Ham & Country Ham


Ham refers to a piece of pork that comes from the rear leg of a hog. There are fresh hams, but most people buy hams that have been cured, smoked or boiled. It is the curing or smoking process that gives ham a salty taste. City hams are precooked hams that have been completely cooked by baking, curing or smoking. Country hams are dry-cured with salt and left to age for several months.

City Ham

  • City hams are wet-cured so have a watery taste to them. These wet-cured hams get their salty flavor from soaking in brine or being injected with a salt solution. Most people buy and serve city hams because they are less salty than country hams and they are precooked.

Picnic Hams

  • Picnic hams are also referred to as city hams, but they are cut from the lower part of a hog's shoulder. They are usually smoked and technically fully cooked. However, they have more fat on them than the leaner hams cut from the rear leg of the hog; therefore, they need extra cooking, not just reheating, to get rid of the excess fat.

Country Hams

  • The flavor of country hams is more intense than city hams since they are dry-cured in brine. Country hams are also known as a Virginia, Tennessee or Kentucky hams. Country hams are dry-cured (meaning with a rub), smoked and aged for a period from a few months to more than a year. When country hams are cured for longer than six months, the meat becomes velvety and dark red with a flavor similar to prosciutto. Newsom's Country Hams claims that country ham carries a stigma as a Southern food, so many American country-ham producers are beginning to market it as an American-style prosciutto product to boost sales. A thick slice of two-year cured country ham, furry with mold and pungent in taste is not as popular today as it was 70 years ago.

American-Style Prosciutto

  • By law, the salt content of country hams must be at least 4 percent. This saltiness, paired with a sweet melon, is as good or better than traditional prosciutto. So restaurateurs are slicing the country hams as thin as possible and promoting the product as American-style prosciutto.


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