08 December, 2009

Ham or spam?

One of my favourite tasks in December is ordering the Christmas ham. When I was a kid, our ham always came courtesy of my grandfather, who inevitably won the necessary vouchers from his local club to pick up an orange-cellophane wrapped number from the supermarket. Christmas fun officially started on Saturday night, as we snacked on the long-wished for ham after getting back from Mass.

These days my tastes are more discerning. Sandwich ham has been replaced in work lunches by a favoured jamon or proscuitto. And the Christmas ham that takes pride of place in the fridge, wrapped in a vinegar-and-water soaked calico bag, is a different thing entirely, in terms of price and flavour.

'Epicure' ran an intriguing feature today on the state of Australia's cured pork industry. After organising a blind ham tasting, most of the tasters were surprised (that is, disappointed) at the results, and Richard Cornish provides a revealing background to how our December pork-fest is catered for.

Have a read, and let me know what you think. Were you surprised by its revelations? Are any of the tasted meats a feature on your festive table?

Our ham comes from Hagens Organic Meats, at Queen Vic Markets. It's $30 a kilo, which makes it one of the pricier ones. That price, however, means that we get Otway free-range pork (they're linked from the photo at the top of this post), and the legs are prepared for the season, minimising the need for sodium nitrate to be added as a preservative.

One thing that hasn't changed is the excitement that builds up during December, ready for that first slice to lay on top of toast, spread with Warrnambool butter...bring on the 25th!


  1. I'm curious as to your comment re "minimising the need for sodium nitrate"?...Are they Nitrate Free?

  2. I don't think they are. I'm going on information I got from them before Christmas last year. My memory is that nitrate is a FSANZ requirement for cured meats, but Hagens keeps theirs to the minimum amount possible.

    I'm happy for anyone to clarify that, and also interested to hear your thoughts.