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Virginia Ham

Virginia Ham is a country ham, made in the state of Virginia.

There is no legal definition of the term.

The pigs used to be fed acorns and peanuts; now they are fed ordinary pig fodder grain.

A dry cure mix used at home, per 100 pounds (45 kg) of meat, tends to be about:

8 pounds (3 1/2 kg) salt
2 pounds (900g) sugar
2 oz (60g) saltpetre

Half of this mix is rubbed all over the ham (both the skin and exposed meat parts) on day 1. The ham is then cured 11 1/2 days per pound (450g) of ham at a temperature range of 36 to 40 F (2 to 4 C.) During this time, the remainder of the mix is rubbed on, on day 7.

The ham is then soaked in cold water for 1 hour to dissolve caked-on salt, then scrubbed with a brush, and then hung to dry for around 14 days at a temperature of 50 to 60 F (10 to 15 C.)

Then after the drying the ham is either smoked or smeared with a rub.

In the south-east of Virginia, it traditional to cold-smoke the hams by a fire from deciduous hardwoods such as hickory or applewood. This speeds up drying, and adds flavour. The smoking period generally lasts for 1 to 3 days. The smoking will turn the ham brownish. In south-western Virginia the tradition after the drying is to rub the ham with a mixture of ground black pepper, brown sugar, saltpetre, cayenne pepper, and molasses. This keeps the meat inside a dark red.

Then, when smoked or rubbed, the aging begins. The ham will be aged for anywhere from 45 to 180 days, in a temperature range from 75 to 95 F (24 to 35 C) in a place with good air circulation.

At home, people often placed the hams double-wrapped in brown paper bags during the aging process, to keep insects from populating the meat.

Cooking Tips

Cook as for country ham.


Graham, Paul P., et al. Dry-Curing Virginia Style Ham. Virginia Cooperative Extension. Publication Number 458-223. August 1998.

Country Ham

Country Ham; Smithfield Ham; Virginia Ham

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Oulton, Randal. "Virginia Ham." CooksInfo.com. Published 01 March 2005; revised 15 May 2007. Web. Accessed 06/18/2018. <http://www.cooksinfo.com/virginia-ham>.

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