ham, hind leg of a hog above the hock joint, prepared for food by curing or smoking. Ham is one of the earliest of preserved meats; it is now a leading product of the meatpacking industry. The flavor and quality of ham depend on the age, condition, and feeding of the swine and on the smoke used in curing. The Westphalian hams of Germany are smoked with juniper brush; birchwood also is used in N Europe; hickory is favored in the United States. The delicate flavor of the relatively lean Smithfield hams of Virginia is attributed in part to the roots, acorns, and nuts upon which the hogs feed. The major consumers of ham are Denmark, Germany, and the United States.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.