SOURCE: National Pork Board

March 06, 2006 17:19 ET

New Survey Shows Ham Is Centerpiece of Easter Meal, but Americans Need Help Picking the Perfect Ham

Food Expert Sheila Lukins Serves Up Ham Hints to Make a Winning Easter Celebration

DES MOINES, IA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- March 6, 2006 --Easter conjures up images of baskets, bunnies, egg hunts and a holiday favorite -- ham. However, while ham is the star of the Easter feast for more than two-thirds of Americans, almost 50 percent admit they need some help picking the perfect ham, according to a new survey* by the National Pork Board.

"The meat case may seem a bit intimidating, but once you learn the basic language and know what to look for, selecting the ham that best fits you and your guests' tastes and preferences is easy," says Parade food editor and cookbook author, Sheila Lukins.

Going on the Easter Ham Hunt

To help cooks everywhere -- from amateur to aficionado -- Lukins shares key ham hints for getting acquainted with the varieties available in the meat case.

1.  Start by choosing between Boneless or Bone-in Ham.
All varieties of ham are either bone-in or boneless. While bone-in hams
are traditionally seen as more elegant and boneless considered easier to
serve, both have the same mouth-watering taste. Bone-in hams are available
in a variety of shapes -- whole or as a shank or butt half -- and typically
serve two to three people per pound. Boneless hams, recognizable by label
and heavy plastic or foil wrapping, keep for several weeks in their
original packaging in the refrigerator. A boneless ham will yield roughly
four to five servings per pound.

2.  Next up, select a Cooked or Uncooked Ham.
Almost all hams come fully cooked, as noted on the label. If desired,
cooked hams can be served directly from the refrigerator without heating.
To serve hot, simply unwrap and heat to an internal temperature of 140
degrees Fahrenheit. Uncooked hams should be heated to an internal
temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Uncooked hams typically require
20-30 minutes per pound at 350 degrees Fahrenheit to heat.

3.  Finally, pick from Dry or Wet-Cured Ham.
Hams are labeled according to the amount of water added to them during
curing, which is a simple process of preserving meat. Hams are either
dry-cured with salt and spices rubbed into the meat's surface, or wet-cured
with a brine solution. Lukins notes that dry-curing is often used for
country-style and specialty hams, while wet-cured hams are a favorite
choice for dinnertime centerpieces to everyday sandwiches.
Shake Up the Traditional Easter Menu

When it comes to adding flare to this holiday favorite, ham's versatility presents the opportunity for endless creativity in the kitchen. "Ham is traditionally the star of the Easter feast, but you don't have to serve the same ham from year to year," says Pamela Johnson, Director of Consumer Communications for the National Pork Board. "Experiment with your ham this holiday by adding a twist to your traditional recipe."

In the spirit of creating a meal that adds flare to any holiday table, Lukins has developed a menu for success starring Baked Ham with Mojo Sauce. Topped with Papaya Salsa and served alongside Gingered Candied Carrots, this elegant, bone-in ham brings a unique, ethnic flavor to the table. This meal is sure to have your guests raving until next Easter.

Equally as delicious as the Easter feast are the leftover creations that follow. This year, shake up your leftover repertoire with Chopped Salad with Ham and Goat Cheese. Topped with ham slices and crumbled goat cheese, this "ham encore" salad is sure to draw a round of applause.

Celebrate Ham!

The National Pork Board has created "Celebrate Ham! Special Occasion Recipes," a FREE brochure that offers ham recipes, information and tips to inspire cooks to prepare ham for occasions throughout the whole year. To order the brochure and view other great ham recipes and tips, including video demonstrations on selecting and carving ham, simply visit TheOtherWhiteMeat.com.

*The survey was conducted online with a random sample of 1,506 men and women 21+ representing a cross-section of the U.S. population -- all members of the CyberPulseTM Advisory Panel. The Advisory Panel has been carefully selected to closely match U.S. population demographics. Research was conducted in February 2006. The overall sampling error for this survey is +/-2.5% at the 95% level of confidence.

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