Ham has a long tradition as a popular choice of favourite meat for a variety of holidays in Ireland, including Christmas and Easter. The ham of a century ago is very different from the honey roast ham available at quality delicatessens and butchers throughout the country.
A closer look at how ham evolved from a farm staple to a gourmet food choice provides a keener understanding of how a simple food became a standard for special events, family gatherings, and everyday enjoyment.
The Humble Beginnings of Ham
Originally, families had a pig that was raised throughout the summer for slaughter when the weather turned from warm to cold. Fattening the pig throughout the summer provided a rich source of quality meat to tide the family over the cold winter months.
The fresh meat was salted, made into sausages, or eaten in a variety of ways as fresh pork. The larger areas of the pig were used to make bacon, which was covered with salt and saltpetre, and left to cure. The curing process required multiple steps and often included smoking, which added to the flavour but also dried out the meat.
Throughout the years and with more advanced processes, brining was introduced and eliminated the old style of dry curing. Brining resulted in a moist, flavourful ham that was not dry, tough, or overly salty.
The next step in the evolution of the honey roast ham was to design a specific cooking process. The best quality honey baked hams are carefully steam cooked to preserve the natural flavour and moisture of the meat. They are then coated with honey, mustard, and unrefined brown sugar combined with cloves, providing a beautiful glaze that adds to the tangy-sweet flavour of the exterior edge of the hame.
Today, Irish honey roast ham is a staple in the kitchen for most families. It is a wonderful addition to any meal and a special treat for the holidays.
Horgans makes honey roast ham from locally sourced Irish pork. To learn more about our products, visit us at horgans.com.