The shelf-stable one is good for up to 2 years on a shelf, at room temperature. It is sterilized in the can during processing. It is usually packed for family-size in what the industry calls “pear-shape cans” (the ones that are flat at the bottom, rounded on top), but for institutions, they may be packed in larger cans called “pullman cans.”
The ones that must be stored refrigerated are good unopened for 6 to 9 months. They are pasteurized, but not sterilized. Often ham packed in “pullman cans” requires refrigeration.
All canned ham is boneless. It can be a whole piece of ham or more usually, pieces pressed together to form a “solid” whole piece. The larger a tin of ham is, the more likely it is to have been one piece of meat.
To make them, dry gelatin (about 1/4 oz) is added to a can before the ham is sealed into it. The tin is then sealed, and cooked by steam. During cooking, juices from the ham mix with the gelatin and upon cooling form a salty opaque jelly. The purpose of the jelly is to provide a cushion for the ham from shipping and handling. As the tin cools, the contracting heat vacuum-seals the can.
The net weight of a can of ham includes the jelly, but excludes the tin. Most tins come with a key that you use to open it with. Mind the sharp edges, and the gelatin that will come gushing out. It is best to open it on a plate. Most people not only drain off and discard the jelly, but scrape it off as well, if not also rinsing the ham.
Once removed from the tin, the Canned Ham can be served at room temperature, or heated. Never heat the ham in an unopened tin or it will explode (for that matter, don’t heat it in an opened tin, either.)
Once the tin is opened, refrigerate all canned ham and use up within 5 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.
Freezing a canned ham still in its can will not extend its storage life, and may turn it rancid.
Canned Ham was first produced in America in 1926 by the George A. Hormel & Company. They called it “Hormel Flavor-Sealed Ham.”
Literature & Lore
“Last Saturday we served Hormel’s Flavor Sealed Ham. Many of those who tried this ham in our market last Saturday, have already placed their orders for delivery tomorrow. The responsiveness of our patrons to our endorsement of this delicious ham, has again proven to us that Voecks Bros. reputation for the finest meats has not been built on fiction.” — Advertisement in “Appleton Post-Crescent”. Appleton, Wisconsin. Friday, 22 July 1927. Evening Edition. Page 17.
“Those who are acquainted with the wonderful flavor and economy of the use of Hormel Flavor Sealed Ham will be delighted to know that they can now purchase Hormel Flavor Sealed Chicken already cooked, in three pound vacuum sealed containers. A special Hormel Representative will be here all day to demonstrate the economy of serving this new treat. These chickens have a flavor unattainable in any other form and are the latest step forward in the advancement of the packing industry. Investigate for yourself at J. W. Peickert’s Sanitary Meat Market 451 MAIN STREET.” — Advertisement in Steven’s Point Daily Journal. Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Friday, 2 August 1929. Page 3.
Hormel’s flavor sealed ham is another nationally known product which Miss Lane (Ed: Louise Lane, Columbia University graduate home economist) has chosen for us in her “Happy Kitchen”.
“Housewives,” Miss Lane asserts, “should take advantage of these labor-saving canned foods”.
In Hormel ham flavour in sealed right in the can and there are twice as many servings in every pound because there are no bones, skin, surplus fat or heavy cooking shrinkage.”
Miss Lane advises the housewife to allow half a pound of meat two persons when she buys Hormel flavor-sealed ham. “But don’t be surprised if it goes even further,” she says.
It goes further according to Miss Lane, not because most women are wrong in figuring half a pound per person, but because Hormel flavor-sealed ham gives twice as much lean meat in each pound.
Serve Hormel Ham for the Big Game day breakfast, Miss Lane advises hostesses who will have guests Saturday before the game. Just open the container, slice and broil or fry or grill the ham for three minutes.
The Hormel ham can be served after the Big Game for dinner. Come home from the game and put the baked ham on the table in 20 minutes.” — In “Canned Food Saves Labour”. Oakland, California. Oakland Tribune. Tuesday, 15 November 1932. Page 23.
“Hormel’s hams are back in the can — but not the three-sided kind you knew before the war. These are round like anyone’s cans, the one-pound fourteen- ounce size $2.95, at Charles and Company, 340 Madison Avenue.” — Paddleford, Clementine (1898 – 1967). Food Flashes Column. Gourmet Magazine. July 1947.