US Products-Dry-Cured Hams

Dana J. Hanson, Gregg Rentfrow, M. Wes Schilling, W. Benjy Mikel, Kenneth J. Stalder, Nicholas L. Berry

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Country ham production in the United States began as early as the 1500s. European explorers and settlers brought pigs to North America to provide a source of food. Without refrigeration, it was critical to preserve the meat. The United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) defines country ham as an uncooked, cured, dried, smoked, or unsmoked meat product made from a single piece of pork ham muscle. The dry-cure mix (salt, sugar, sodium nitrate and/or sodium nitrite) is applied to the surface of the raw meat in a sufficient quantity to ensure the finished dry product has an internal salt content >4%. Most country ham has a finished salt percentage of 5-8%. The salted raw hams are then maintained (cured) at temperatures of 1-4°C for approximately 40-50 days. After this cure step, the hams are maintained at 10-12°C for an additional 14-21 days. The final production step is to dry or age the ham at 30-35°C. This step can be as short as 20 days or as long as an additional year. Country ham flavor develops and intensifies over time, so the aging time is dependent on the desired flavor profile. Finished country ham will have a water activity of 0.85-0.91. The lowered water activity and salt content ensure the safety and shelf stability of the finished product. In the United States, most consumers of country ham will cook it prior to eating. Common methods of cooking include baking the whole ham and pan frying thin slices of meat. However, a small percentage of long-aged and low-water-activity country ham is consumed uncooked, similar to European dry-cured ham products.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Fermented Meat and Poultry
Subtitle of host publicationSecond Edition
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781118522653
StatePublished - Dec 31 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Country ham
  • Dry-cured
  • Pork
  • United States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'US Products-Dry-Cured Hams'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this