Food & Nutrition Column

Mary Ann Lienhart Cross
County Extension Director
Extension Educator Health Human Sciences
Purdue Extension Elkhart County



Making the Most of Ham

Many of you enjoyed ham for Easter and now you have ham for all kinds of other recipes. I have to begin with an explanation that ham is one of few meats that you buy ready to eat. I am sure many of you knew that but I continue to learn from people all the time that there are those of you who did not know that. This is the example that I recently used: the sliced ham that you buy in the deli, or that sliced and prepackaged ham, is the same ham that you buy in the meat department. You can slice that ham and eat it as is or you can fry it, warm it in the microwave, or bake it, but the ham is already cooked.

Most of us like ham and we like all the possibilities of food that we can make with ham. There is nothing like a good ham sandwich. It is no surprise that ham is popular; people of all ages enjoy it. Three ounces of ham, which is a serving, is around 120 calories and 4 grams of fat.

The ham sandwich has been the number one sandwich in America for more than 15 years beating out even hamburgers and hot dogs for the top spot. I want a great tasting bread, honey mustard or cracked pepper mustard, lettuce, the ham fried in a cast iron skillet, and some cheese melted on it! I am sure I will have had the sandwich before you are reading this column!

So now for ideas beyond the sandwich. My first suggestion is not one commonly thought of, but I know from experience it is very good. Use your ham as the meat for stir-fried vegetables. You do not really need to add a sauce, but you could if you wanted to. Just about any time I am using ham in a recipe like this I like to brown it in a cast iron skillet. I use cast iron for a lot of cooking, but it does not work for stir-fry, especially when you add a sauce. I stir-fry the vegetables with a little oil, garlic and ginger and then add the ham.

Next thought that comes to mind is ham and beans, and of course, I am going to share to make sure to brown the ham in a cast iron skillet for more flavor. I also learned from my dad, whom was very good cook, to brown lots of onions that cook with the ham and beans. Most of you use navy beans when making ham and beans, but I suggest you expand your bean experience. There are a whole lot of different beans to try. Try some different kinds of beans and even mixing the kinds. In case you have a lot of ham, I have learned from experience that you can also brown the ham and freeze it for later use. I have also frozen ham and beans. I then thawed it in the refrigerator and it was just as tasty, maybe a little softer, but it was just fine with cornbread.

Another great food to make with extra ham is ham salad. You can be creative; try making different spreads and add cranberry relish, fruit jelly, or even chutney. Other ways to use the ham are in pasta salad hot or cold, breakfast casseroles and ham gravy for biscuits. Then there are all the soup possibilities that you can use with ham pieces such as adding to your favorite potato, broccoli, cheese or vegetable soup.

Whatever you chose to do, make the most of the ham and do not let it be wasted. Be creative and use the ham in meals in a variety of ways. Most of all enjoy great tasting food! ###

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