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It can be confusing when distinguishing between gammon, ham and bacon. We know that these meats come from a pig, but what exactly are the differences between them. Is it as simple as the location of the meat on the pig or is it the process the meat goes through that makes them different?
Gammon, ham and bacon are all cured meats (which means they are preserved using salt or brine), and all can be smoked. However there are some key differences between them.
The word Gammon comes from the French word Gambe, which means hind leg. Gammon is the cut of meat from the pigs hind leg which is cured in the same way as bacon. The important factor here is that is the location of the pig from where it comes; gammon only comes from the hind leg of the pig.
The main difference between gammon and ham is that gammon is sold raw and needs to be cooked, whilst ham is sold cooked and ready for eating. Therefore it is true that a gammon is a ham that has not yet been cooked. If a gammon is prepared and cooked it can be called a ham, and is generally sold as a gammon ham.
Gammons are often 'wet cured' in a brine mixture, although they may be 'dry cured' in a salt based mixture. Traditionally gammon joints are cured over a period of 21-28 days. They are often been cured using additional ingredients such as muscovado sugar, juniper berries, beer and treacle. After the curing process the gammon may be smoked. This may be done with liquid smoke or smoked over wood chippings. Different woods will give subtle differences in flavour.
Often gammon is sold as a leg joint or as a gammon steak.
Ham is the term used to describe cured and cooked meat from the hind leg and rump. Ham refers to the cut of the meat, and so can also refer to meats other than pork such as turkey ham.
Hams can be 'wet cured' in a brine mixture or 'dry cured' in a salt based mixture. Hams can be smoked or left green after curing. This is followed by a period of drying and aging.
Ham is ready to be eaten and is usually sliced thinly and served cold. Interestly, if a gammon is cooked then it becomes a ham.
Bacon refers to certain cuts of meat taken from the sides, back or belly of a pig. It is is cured and possibly smoked. Like ham, bacon refers to the cut of meat and so can also refer to other meats than pork.
Gammon and bacon are both cured pork. The main difference between them is the part of the pig from which they originate. Gammon is the hind leg (haunch) of a pig whilst bacon is the meat from other parts of the pig such as the loin, collar or belly.
There are several different types of bacon depending on the thickness of the slice and from the part of the pig from which it is cut. Streaky bacon is cut from the pork belly and is named after the fatty streaks that run through each rasher. Back bacon is taken from the loin of the pig, which is the part of the body on both sides of the spine between the lowest ribs and the hipbones. It has less fat than streaky bacon and more meat. Pacetta is uncooked, uncured cubes of bacon.
Bacon can be dry cured by either smoking, being packed with large amounts of salt or drying in cold air. Alternatively, bacon can be wet cured by immersing in a liquid brine.
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