Let's talk ham. Fresh, smoked, cured? Which do I want and why?

I've never made a ham before, but have committed to making one for my cooking club holiday feast this weekend. Several of the recipes on this site look amazing--some call for fresh ham, some for smoked or cured. How do I decide? I'm not sure I've ever had a fresh ham--does it taste like a giant pork chop? Will my cooking club think I cheated if I start with a cured or smoked ham?

Ms. T
  • Posted by: Ms. T
  • December 1, 2011


Ms. T. December 4, 2011
Thanks for all the helpful tips, folks. I ended up getting a bone-in ham that was cured and smoked and followed this recipe from Epicurious.http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Ham-with-Bourbon-Molasses-and-Pecan-Glaze-233395
It came out great! Next time, I think I'll try a fresh ham, just to see what the difference is. Thanks all.
mcd2 December 3, 2011
i usually cook a fresh ham. i prefer them because i control the flavoring. they do NOT taste like a pork chop at all. not salty either because they are not preerved with salt and who knows what else.
stilltrying December 2, 2011
last year I bought a cured aged ham from a place in Kentucky - I paid extra for them to to the prep of scrubbing and soaking, so it was supposedly ready to eat. Holy cow, was it salty. Next time I will do the prep myself, and soak it a looonng time. I have purchased cured hams prepared by Meat Science students at a university, and they were fantastic - not aged however, which is prob why they were less salty. You probably know all this already, but just thought I would share my experiences for the other novices.
sdebrango December 1, 2011
I made a cured ham using the food52 recipe by tastefood "smoked ham with pommegranate molasses, black pepper and dijon at the potluck party and it was amazing. I am actually thinking of trying Wssmom's fresh ham recipe for new years, It will be my first time dealing with a fresh ham I have always done cured and they are wonderful with very little cooking time,
Sam1148 December 1, 2011
I'd stay with cured hams, partially cooked hams. "fresh hams" are a bit labor intensive, as are "Virgina" style hams that are dried and salted, which require long soaking to remove the salt and help hydrate them.
This is a good recipe http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/city-ham-recipe/index.html
and I think Youtube will offer up video of the processes.

A pineapple sauce served with ham is great addition. use some allspice, cloves and cinnamon in the sauce.
I don't think anyone will think it's a cheat using a cured partiality baked ham anymore than not making procuitio from scratch. The glaze and sauce are the additions you bring to the ham.

BTW: Corn bread, collards and blackeyed peas are must (to me) with ham.

Ms. T. December 4, 2011
I love Alton Brown for stuff like this. I had actually just watched his city ham video right after I posted my question and before I got your response ;)
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