There’s nothing like a chunk of ham with eggs, fried potatoes, and biscuits. Ham sandwiches, ham casseroles, and ham and cheese on crackers for a snack are all familiar and comforting foods to Americans. Ham might not be so good for our health, though, so some substitutes are in order.
Numerous households serve ham only on major holidays. They use sliced ham or ham lunch meats for lunch and for snacks. Some of us, though, could eat ham at every meal every day and not even blink. However, there’s been a bit of questioning about ham lately, so we’re going to give you some ham substitutes.
Table of Contents
- Is It Healthy To Eat Ham?
Types Of Ham Curing
- Ham Substitute: Turkey
- Ham Substitute: Pork
- Ham Substitute: Braciole
- Ham Substitute: Lamb Ham
- Ham Substitute: Chicken
- Where Did The First Ham Come From?
Is It Healthy To Eat Ham?
Ham contains all nine essential amino acids (the stuff that makes proteins) in addition to iron, B vitamins, selenium, copper, zinc, phosphorus, and potassium among other nutrients. It’s high in protein but low in carbs and fat.
The snag is that ham is preserved by two methods: smoke or salt. Since it’s a processed food, the processing causes major problems in the body like high blood pressure and diabetes just to name two. The insane part of it is that it’s the processing that makes the meat taste like ham. Here’s how it’s done.
Types Of Ham Curing
A cured ham is soaked in a brine solution or injected with said solution. This is both for preservation and flavoring.
Wet Cured Ham
This is when the ham is actually soaked in brine and then smoked. This kind isn’t as salty and the smoked flavor really shines.
This ham is brined and then smoked, or it could be boiled. Look in the cold cases at the grocery store for packages marked “ready to cook,” “ready to serve,” or “ham with natural juices.” This is by far the most common of hams.
A ham spends some time in a brine solution to kill any bacteria that might be present. It then goes into the smokehouse, where the meat is allowed to be smoked on low heat for several hours or even days. This allows the meat to soak up the hickory or maple smoky flavor.
In the newest findings, ham and its processed brethren cause stomach and colon cancer. Therefore, cooks have been scrambling to find a ham substitute that would please their families and taste wonderful. Here’s what we’ve found to help you out.
Ham Substitute: Turkey
When cooks began seeking “clean” and even somewhat less processed foods, they hailed turkey as a healthier alternative. What they didn’t know, though, is that turkey bacon, ham, hot dogs, burgers, and other turkey foods are just as processed as their beef cousins. The meat has to be preserved, so they do it just like they preserve ham.
If you don’t want all that sodium in your life, ask your butcher in the grocery store to grind fresh turkey for you. It can be formed into burgers, meatballs, sausage patties, and more. Just add a little flavoring, and voilà, you have a healthier diet without all that salt.
For a fancier meal or perhaps for Sunday dinner, try a turkey roulade. Roll out your turkey as you would a pastry crust or a pie crust. Stuff it with spinach, mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Roll it up as you would a sausage roll. Bake on 425 degrees for 30 minutes, then drop the heat to 350 degrees and cook for an hour. You can make a gravy from the pan drippings.
Ham Substitute: Pork
Not all pork products are processed. Prosciutto, for instance, simply means “ham.” Prosciutto crudo, or raw cured ham along with prosciutto cotto, or cooked ham is available to those who wish to eat ham, but don’t like the processing options. Prosciutto is salty to some degree, but tastes sweet.
It’s thinly sliced due to its difficulty in chewing if it were sliced thicker. Prosciutto can be used in all kinds of recipes. It’s usually used in sandwiches, however,
Pancetta is another salty cured pork product made from pork belly. It’s used primarily to add body and flavor to soups and pastas. It can also be used on sandwiches. It’s thinly sliced and usually consumed raw. Try wrapping pancetta around a pork roast, seasoning it with rosemary and thyme, and roasting it with white wine.
Some recipes call for ham hock or hog jowl. If these aren’t available, try using a ham bone, smoked sausage, or guanciale or hog jowl that’s been cubed and smoked.
Ham Substitute: Braciole
A beef flank is rolled and tied. Stuff it with bread crumbs and Asiago and mozzarella cheeses. Roll and tie the flank. Braise it in the oven in a white wine and marinara sauce.
If you’d prefer something closer to the ham portion of a pig, then consider the “ham” portion of a cow. The “round” portion of the cow is the rear legs, where the butt, ham, and thigh is located. Round roasts, London broil, and round steaks originate in this area. Be sure to marinate the meat before cooking to tenderize it.
Ham Substitute: Lamb Ham
Also located in the hind leg portion of the animal, lamb ham is made from a leg of lamb. This was the original Colonial ham, sheep being more available to the colonists than pigs. It fell out of favor in later years, but it has enjoyed a revival recently. You’ll have to do the brining and smoking yourself, however, since lamb ham isn’t on offer in any grocery store of which we are aware. It’s not that difficult.
Brine The Leg Of Lamb
You’ll need three tablespoons of sea salt, three tablespoons of brown sugar, one tablespoon Insta Cure No. One or pink curing salt, one tablespoon peppercorns, crushed, one sliced lemon, two rosemary sprigs, and one tablespoon of fennel seeds.
Get a two-gallon Ziploc bag like the kind in which a turkey is roasted. Boil one gallon of water with salt and sugar until it’s dissolved. Allow it to become room temperature. Add the rest of the dry ingredients including the lemon.
Rinse the leg of lamb. Place in the two gallon bag. Pour in the brine and remove the air from the bag until the leg of lamb is completely brined. Zip the bag closed. Place it in the fridge in a pan for six days to cure.
Cooking The Lamb Ham
Remove the leg of lamb from the brine. Toss the brine. Place the lamb on a racked pan back in the fridge for a day, so it can dry. Heat up your smoker machine. It should be 150 degrees or around five hours to heat up. Cook the lamb as you would a pork ham, or about two hours. Mangia!
Ham Substitute: Chicken
Chicken Cordon Bleu. Chicken Hash. Scalloped Potatoes With Chicken. Chicken and Cheese Sliders. Chicken and Biscuits. All the recipes you make with ham can be made with chicken. Soups, salads, sandwiches, casseroles, brunch, and more are enhanced using chicken instead of ham. Use vegetables to the best advantage in these recipes to give the dishes color and texture. Adding different cheeses always adds the wow factor to your dishes.
Where Did The First Ham Come From?
The Chinese appear to have cured the first pork in 4900 BCE. The Romans came next due to their trade with China. The Gauls, later the French, came up with the idea of the Black Forest and Westphalian ham. The first explorers like De Soto and Columbus brought pigs with them to the New World, which set up the early colonists for pork products. Salt pork and bacon gave the colonists food with what turned out to be a shelf life.
Once the hog got to America, preserving the ham by curing and smoking it became the thing in certain states. For example, a Smithfield ham can only be obtained from Smithfield, Virginia. The Southern states especially offer hams locally cured and smoked such as Kentucky’s Father’s Country Hams and Newsom’s Country Hams. Tennessee chimes in there with Benton’s country hams.
Today, you can buy a ham in any grocery store. Old-fashioned butcher shops sell hams in their raw glory as well as hams preserved by brining or smoking. The hams can be purchased anywhere from two pounds on up to sixteen pounds.
What Is A Substitute For Parma Ham?
Ham in Italian is called prosciutto di Parma, so Parma ham is basically prosciutto. There are several substitutes, one being speck. Speck is made from the pig’s thigh, rubbed with herbs, and dry cured. It’s thinly sliced, and meant to be eaten on a meat and cheese arrangement or in pastas and dumplings.
What Makes Ham Taste Like Ham?
Before a ham is processed, it has no taste per se. However, when it’s salted and smoked, the salt and smoke impart a flavor into the meat. The kind of wood chips used in the smoker (apple, maple, and hickory are the most popular) or a combination of wood chips give the meat that smoky taste.
Is Ham Classified As Red Meat?
Yes. Meats that are red or pink before cooking are classified as red meats. These include beef, pork, and lamb. White meats include chicken, turkey, duck, goose, and rabbit.