Cooking Ham in a Pressure Cooker

Pressure Cooking Ham
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Pressure Cooking Ham

In this post, I will be discussing one of the many ways you can use a pressure cooker – to cook the ham. It may seem like a regular process, after all ham is just another type of meat. However, there are tips and hints that can help you achieve the best results every time you cook ham with your pressure cooker.

Let’s start with a definition of ham.

Ham is meat cut from a hog (male pig). For so many years ham has been a delicacy in many countries, all over the world ham is used to prepare different types of delicious meals. The spectacular thing about ham is the texture of the meat, which actually depends on the part of the hog it was cut from. For example, ham cut from the front part of a hog’s leg is called Pork, which we are very familiar with, and if the meat has been cut from the hog’s rear thighs, it is called ham. You can also get ham from the loins and shank of the hog.

Ham is sourced from farms where hogs are raised, sometimes these farms can be very far, and some chefs have had to import ham from their favorite farms. The distance of the farms and for preservative reasons, it is necessary to cure ham. However, this process increases the sodium content of the meat because curing ham is done with sugar, salts and other food preservatives.

Now that you know about the different types of ham let’s discuss other details you should know about ham. Depending on the ham cut you have, there are cooking methods that can deliver great results for your meals. Hams are usually fully cooked; this is the best approach for all types. Ignore the people who say ham that has been cured should not be cooked; you still need to do some cooking even after curing. In the markets, the state of the ham you want to buy will be indicated on the packaging. If the ham has been cooked, it will be clearly stated on the packaging there is no confusion among buyers. Please note that even when ham has been cooked, you can still add your unique flavor to make the meal special.

Smoking ham

Smoking ham is a common process; we can list it among the preparatory processes for ham after curing has been done. The smoking process is done in a farm shed. The ham is strung out on hangers and left to absorb the smoke. This procedure is mainly done to preserve the ham further if it is going to be stored for a long time. As always, farmers indicate the preservation procedures that have been used for the ham you are about to buy. Smoking and curing ham can keep the meat fit for consumption for as long as one year. However, the demand for ham barely allows the meat to stay that long.

In the market, you may find ham packaged in cans or vacuum packaging for extra preservation. Regarding ham sold in cans, you can find products that need to be stored in freezers or on the shop shelves. Both packaging options can keep the ham in good condition and ready for consumption for a few months to one year. While canned ham stored on the shelves can be cooked and eaten as soon as you buy it, frozen ham in cans will need to be thawed for a few hours before consumption.

Cook Ham in a Pressure Cooker

Common terms associated with ham

Aged Hams  

The term aged ham has been used for so many years; it refers to ham that has been preserved by curing or smoking and stored for as long as seven years. Now you know why that name was chosen. Aged ham goes through a special and thorough cleaning process before it is ready to be cooked and eaten.

Bayonne Ham  

Bayonne ham can be traced to French origins. It is a traditional method of processing ham without cooking it, the ham is prepared raw and served with buttered peasant bread. The name Bayonne ham comes from the curing process which is done using Bayonne salt from the Basque region.

Boneless Ham

Some people prefer their ham without the hogs bones. On the other hand, the partially boned hams have some bones retained while main bone structure such as the bones at the shank and hip has been removed. Farmers leave the bones in or partially remove only some bones to improve the flavor of the ham.

Brine-Cured ham

Another method of curing ham is by treating the meat with brine. This is a common method and the ham produced from this process is commonly found on retail in grocery stores.

Canadian bacon               

Bacon is the meat cut from the tenderloins or the middle part of the hog’s back. Bacon is usually pre-cooked before any form of preservation, or retail packaging is done.

Canned Ham     

The meat found in canned ham has been cut into smaller bits; they are ‘jammed’ into the can to increase the retail quantity. Canned ham is mixed with gelatin derivatives for extra preservation.

Country Cured 

Country cured ham refers to the meat that has been properly cured and dried for at least seventy days. The meat prepared through this process are mostly transferred and stored as aged ham. After purchase, country cured ham is specially cooked to restore its delicious flavor.

Culatello            

In Italy, ham is cured and soaked in red wine; this is done to improve the flavor of the meat. The ham is called Culatello, an Italian word.

Cured Ham        

Cured ham refers to meat from hogs that have been processed and preserved by any of the various curing processes.

Dry Curing         

Dry curing of ham is done by covering the surface of the meat with salt. The meat is left in this position for many days to allow it to absorb the salt. Dry curing is used to preserve ham for as long a one year.

FDA Ham Labeling          

The indication on this label reveals important information such as the percentage of protein in the ham after processing.

According to the FDA ham labeling, after the removal of fat, about 20.5 % of protein remains. Also, ham which has retained its natural juices is believed to contain about 18.5% of protein. Ham is also mixed with water; this product contains about 17% of protein when 10% of the water has been used for the process.

Fresh Ham         

This is ham fresh from the slaughterhouse. It is raw and can either be preserved or cooked before serving.

Fully-Cooked    

Have you noticed this indication on ham labels, “Fully cooked,”?  It means the ham you are about to buy has been previously heated as a form of preservation and cooking. The temperature within the ham during this process rises to about 148 0F. Fully cooked ham is sold in grocery shops, after purchase you can either serve it for eating or add some more flavor with your special recipe.

Gammon            

Gammon is a French word; it means the hind legs of a hog. You will come across this word often in ham cookbooks or online.

Ham Portions   

Hind portions are ham pieces without the center ham cuts.

Injection Curing               

This is a form of curing ham with brine. The meat is injected with brine during the curing process. Injection curing can also be done with other suitable liquids for curing such as wine.

Irish Ham           

Irish ham has a wonderful reputation for its exceptional tasting flavor. The added flavour is done by smoking the ham over peat fires. Irish ham also needs to be prepared and cooked before eating.

Partially Cooked             

Ham is partially cooked to destroy a common parasite called trichina. The ham is cooked to a temperature of about 137 0F and preserved. However, after purchase, you must cook this ham before eating.

Picnic Ham         

Picnic ham is the unique name given to meat cut from the upper part of the hog’s forelegs. The cut meat includes a part of the hog’s shoulder, the meat is usually tough and can be prepared fresh or preserved by smoking.

Prosciutto          

This ham is particular to Italy. It can be either cooked or uncooked. When the ham is cooked, it is called prosciutto cotto or cooked ham; the raw ham is called prosciutto crudo. Preservation methods for this ham include the traditional curing with salt or drying.

Ready-To-Eat Hams       

Whenever you come across this term used for hams, grab your cutlery and get ready to enjoy the amazing taste of ham. In this case, the meat has been heated to about 130 0F to improve the flavor, before packaging.

Scotch Ham       

Scotch ham has a long history, but a lot of its stories have been eroded over the years. Now, the term basically refers to raw boneless ham that has been partially cured. Scotland ham is sold in special casings.

Smithfield Ham

The origin of this ham is Smithfield, Virginia, in the United States. It is another version of the country cured ham, processed with salt, sugar, and sodium nitrate. After processing, Smithfield ham can be preserved for as long as one year. It is sought after for its flavor and should be cooked slowly until the meat becomes tender.

Sweet-Pickle Curing      

This term refers to a curing process for ham that involves the use of sweet brine, molasses, and brown sugar.

Urban-Style ham processing

This is a mechanized process of preparing ham for commercial sales or large scale preservation. The curing method used in this process is the injection method. The ham produced through this process is almost tasteless, so you can cook it and add your preferred juices to achieve a delicious flavor.

Westphalian Ham          

This ham is sourced from farms in the Westphalia forest in Germany. The ham is properly cured and smoked in a slow process over smoldering beechwood or juniper wood. This ham is highly sought after for its smoky flavor and dark brown color even though it is quite expensive.

York Ham           

York ham is another commonly talked about product. It has a characteristically pink colored meat and mild flavor. York ham is country cured and should be cooked before eating.

Cooking cured ham in a pressure cooker

The pressure cooker is perfect for cooking ham. You can set and monitor the pressure and cooking process to achieve different textures for the meat. Cooking ham in a pressure cooker is also a great way to remove fat, and with the right settings, you can also eliminate moisture. Pressure cooking can be used for precooked ham or uncooked ham. However, you must be careful to ensure the ham is heated to the right internal temperature.

Let’s talk about cooking already ‘cooked’ ham in a pressure cooker. If the ham has not been sliced into thin pieces, you can do this to enable deep penetration of the heat. Cooked ham is usually sold sliced or spiral cut. Before cooking in the pressure cooker, you should wrap the ham pieces in aluminium foil to keep the pieces together in the pressure cooker.

It is also important to use kitchen tongs instead of knives or forks when moving the pieces of ham. Using forks can cause some of the juice to be lost, which is why tongues are most appropriate to remove your cooked ham from the pressure cooker. Also, for the best results, your ham should be placed in the cooker with the parts that contain fats facing upwards. Regarding the sizes of ham pieces, ensure you do not put too many pieces in the pressure cooker and maintain the two-thirds recommended volume for pressure cookers.

Common methods of pressure cooking ham include steam roasting, and baking the ham. If you choose to steam roast ham, you should use the rack that comes with your pressure cooker. For more flavor, you can add some cloves of garlic or herbs.

If you have bought ham that has been cured with salt, you can reduce the sodium content by soaking the ham in water for about seven hours. Please note the ham should be soaked and the container placed in a refrigerator. In the case of ham that has been dry-cured, you need to boil the ham pieces to release the flavor, especially when the bones have been left in the meat.

The preparatory methods for uncooked ham also include soaking and washing before cooking in your pressure cooker. The uncooked ham pieces should be placed in the cooker with the parts covered in skin facing upwards. A thermometer can be used to monitor the temperature because you need the meat cooked at 140 0F for smoked ham, and 170 0F for cured ham.

Glazing ham

Glazing is usually done after it has been cooked. Glazing is done to improve the flavor and appearance of the ham before it is served. You can glaze ham with pineapple slices, cherry, or caramelized sauce.

Cooking fresh ham under pressure

Fresh ham comes straight from the farm. They usually have the muscles and some tissues attached. Fresh ham is cooked in the pressure cooker to make it tender; it comes as lean and tough meat.

Here’s a quick tip for selecting the best fresh ham in the market. Look out for ham that is surrounded by a layer of tough white fat. The fat will melt while you cook the ham and improve the flavour of the meat. After cooking under pressure, your fresh ham will have a shade of gray and whitish color.

Fresh ham can be cooked in different ways; your choice may depend on the recipe you want to use. If you plan to steam roast with a pressure cooker, ensure you do the glazing before moving the ham into an oven. Hams that are braised also come out very well and taste great.

No worries if you cannot find a recipe that uses a pressure cooker in your cookbook, if what you have uses an oven, something can be worked out. For example, if your recipe states that you need to roast the ham for forty minutes at 350 0F, this means your steam roasting should be set at a maximum of 15 psi and about fifty minutes of cooking under pressure. The steam pressure should also be released using the natural release mechanism.

How to know your ham is well cooked

The best way to know if your ham is ready is by checking the internal temperature. If you have a chart, it can help. However, fully cooked ham should have an internal temperature of 140 0F, while fresh ham and uncooked ham should have an internal temperature of about 160 0F.

The process of checking the internal temperature is easy. After removing the ham from your cooker, insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the ham. You will get a reading. Once you have confirmed the internal temperature following the guide above, the ham can be glazed, if you wish. If you are not satisfied with the internal temperature, you can continue cooking the ham a while longer.

Improving the flavour of ham

There are common herbs, and spices you can use to improve the taste of ham. Frequently used spices include cinnamon, cloves, rosemary, and fennel, among other options.

You can also improve the flavor of ham by boiling it in flavored liquid instead of using water. Some options include cola drinks, root beer, or citrus beverages made from oranges, lemon, or lime. You can also use apple juice, cranberry or pineapple juice to add more flavor to ham.

You can be creative and mix some of these juices. However, your mixture with fruit juices or flavored drinks should be topped with water. For example, add half a cup of water to apple juice, pineapple juice or cola drinks to make the flavored mixture for boiling your ham.

After pressure cooking ham

When you have removed your cooked ham from the pressure cooker, you can continue with the instructions in your recipe. Some recipes may require you to improve the flavor using any of the tips mentioned above, or roasting the ham in an oven. You could also glaze your ham to make it look more appealing before serving.

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