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Choosing the perfect Christmas ham

Choosing the perfect Christmas ham

When it comes to choosing the perfect Christmas ham, there’s a lot to consider. Should you buy Aussie or imported? Lightly cured or extra smokey? Bone-in or boneless? Whole or half? If you're feeling overwhelmed, never fear. To help you avoid any ham disasters, here's our top tips for choosing the perfect Christmas leg.

1. Look for Australian Christmas ham 

For a start, you’re going to want an Australian leg ham. (Many cut-price supermarket hams use imported pork from Canada and Denmark). Choosing Aussie is the best way to support local farmers and producers, and of course, your ham will taste better too.

So when you’re shopping for Christmas ham, look out for the pink ‘PorkMark’ logo, indicating that your ham is 100% Aussie grown. And if your local supermarket doesn’t have Aussie xmas hams, try your local deli or butcher.


2. Go for traditionally cured ham

Most people choose a cured ham, rather than a raw / uncooked leg. It’s just simpler. The curing process eliminates bacteria, adds colour and flavour, and means the ham is ready-to-eat. Some people choose to glaze and cook their cured ham, but this is purely for decorative reasons.

Traditional curing is important. We’ve come across ham varieties that aren’t traditionally smoked at all - instead they’re simply injected with smoke flavouring. Another trick is for meat producers to add extra water, increasing the weight (and price) of the ham, sacrificing flavour along the way. When it comes to Christmas ham, you certainly get what you pay for. 

At Kaczanowski, we cure our hams by first ‘brining’ - soaking the ham in a mixture of salt, water and spices - and then cold-smoking. The cold-smoking process unfolds over many hours, at a very low heat. The length and type of smoking varies the flavour. For a traditional flavour, choose the Traditional Leg Ham or for a more intense and smokey flavour, choose the Smokehouse Leg Ham

(NB: Most Kaczanowski outlets offer free ham tastings over the Christmas season). 

3. Bone-in or boneless Christmas ham? 

Bone-in Christmas hams are the traditional option, the kind of 'Fred Flinstone' ham you'd expect to see in yuletide feasts. Some customers find that bone-in hams are a little easier to hold when carving off slices. And some chefs believe that keeping the bone-in adds to the flavour and moistness when cooking. But generally, the difference is negligible. Ultimately, if your Christmas dinner or lunch is a traditional affair, then a bone-in ham is the way to go. 

If you would like to avoid the hassles of bones, Kaczanowski boneless  and semi-boneless Christmas hams are a good option. Boneless varieties, such as Virginia Ham, are formed into an oval and cooked. Boneless hams provide maximum meat for your money, but lose some of the style of a traditional xmas ham. 

Another option is to choose a semi-boneless variety, such as the Easy Carve Ham, which has all but a single central bone removed. The ham meat is formed around that bone - either in a 'Bulb' or a 'Long' shape. Keeping the central bone makes the ham easier to hold and slice with an electric carving knife.  

4. Whole or half Christmas ham? 

No matter what style of ham you choose, you’ll need to decide on either a half or whole ham. A whole ham is exactly that: An entire cured leg of pork, including bones and skin. This is the most traditional option, great for feeding large families (or a small family of Christmas ham fanatics). Whole legs can easily feed a dozen people. 

If a whole ham sounds like too much for your Christmas feast, then a half ham may be a more economical choice. Half Christmas hams come in two styles: the top half (called a Butt) or the bottom half (called the Shank). Many chefs find the Butt to be leaner, and more tender. While the Shank is considered to be fattier but more flavoursome. Once again, a tasting may help split the decision.

Where to buy your Christmas ham

You won’t find Kaczanowski in the supermarket. Our award-winning Christmas hams are exclusively available from gourmet food stores, delis, butchers and independent grocers throughout New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland

To find your local outlet please check our website. And if you can't find an outlet in your region, give us a call (02) 9642 3809.

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About us
Kaczanowski & Co

We are an Australian producer of gourmet cooked and cured meats, renowned for our award-winning Pastrami and Christmas hams. All Kaczanowski products use certified Australian-grown Pork, Beef, Lamb and Chicken - prepared fresh daily to recipes passed down through our family.