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Easter is less than two weeks away and many consumers are preparing their Easter menu. For first time cooks the thought of cooking a whole ham for a large crowd can be intimidating. We’re here to help you out.

First decision is how much ham do you need? We suggest ¾ of a pound per person. Children will probably eat less but a teenager can eat considerably more.

Now that you have determined how much you will need, the next question is what is the difference in all the hams in the store?

The vast majority of people will purchase a smoked and cooked ham that simply needs to be reheated. Some folks like to season and or cure their own. Here are the major ham types:

Fresh Ham or Green Ham:

This ham has not been cured or smoked. It is raw pork and will need to be seasoned and or cured and fully cooked before serving.

Country Ham:

This type of ham is uncooked, cured, dried and can be smoked or unsmoked. They have been dried to the point they do not require refrigeration. Follow the manufacturers preparation instructions as these hams have high salt levels and may need to be soaked before cooking.


This product can be cured with water, salt, flavorings and cure. Read the label to ensure that the ham has already been fully cooked or if you will need to fully cook the ham before serving. This product will be the same weight after smoking as it was before water and flavorings were added.

Ham with Natural Juices:

This product can contain up to 10% added solution of water, salt, flavorings after it has been smoked.

Ham, Water Added:

Can contain up to 25% added solution of water, salt, flavorings after smoking

Ham & Water Product:

Can contain any amount of water, salt, flavorings after cooking, but will have at least 25% added.

As you can see there are a few different types of ham, all based on how much added water is in the product. The cheaper the ham the more likely it has more water added. This added water helps keep the ham more moist after cooking at home, but the texture will also be different.

No-Nitrate or Nitrite added Ham or Naturally Cured Ham:

This simply means that man-made sodium nitrite has not been directly added to the product. Nitrites/Nitrates can still be added by the use of ingredients that are naturally high in nitrates such as celery juice powder or vegetable juice powder made from leafy greens.

Why are nitrites added to ham anyway? Nitrites give ham the traditional pink color and “ham” flavor. Without nitrites it would be gray in color and taste like a pork roast.

RJ’s offers our Traditional Maple Sugar Cured Ham, Double Smoked Ham, and Spiral Sliced and Glazed Ham. These hams are considered Ham with Natural Juices. They are smoked and fully cooked.

Cooking instructions are:

Maple Sugar Cured Ham or Double Smoked Ham: place on rack in shallow baking dish, add a small amount of water, fruit juice or soda in bottom of dish. Place in 325° preheated oven for 15 minutes per pound.

Spiral Sliced & Glazed Ham: place on rack in shallow baking dish, add a small amount of water, fruit juice or soda in bottom of dish. Place in 275° preheated oven for 8-10 minutes per pound. Ham is already sliced and will heat faster than an unsliced ham. Overheating this ham will cause it to be dry and tough.

Richard Reams