Pigs will fly, or at least Christmas hams
LOCAL butchers have their hands full making hams in the lead up to Christmas, when demand for the delicacy traditionally skyrockets.
Bangalow butcher John Herne, whose hams are sourced locally from Byron Bay Pork, expects to sell about 2500 hams in December - a quarter of his yearly tally.
"We don't have time to sleep," Mr Herne joked.
Country Meats, which has three outlets in Goonellabah, Ballina and Lismore, have been making traditional hams non-stop for the last four months.
"We have hundreds and hundreds of them," said marketing coordinator Melissa Bryant, who noted demand was high this year and they may run out.
Country Meats sources all its hams from a piggery in Whian Whian, and are gluten-free cured and naturally smoked in-store.
Traditional hams are injected with flavourings before being soaked in brine for at least four days.
Post-pickling they spend half a day being smoked in a smokehouse - using traditional hickory woodchips - then matured in a cool room for one to two weeks.
But not all hams are made the same way - mass-produced hams are manufactured using a steam-cooking technique with 'liquid smoke', which can make them waterlogged and grey.
Many of these hams are also imported. Boneless hams are a tell-tale sign of an import, because Commonwealth restrictions prevent the importation of any pork on the bone.
The label "made from local and imported ingredients" usually means the ham is made from frozen pork shipped from places like Canada, where the government subsidises pig feed.
According to Australian Pork Ltd, more than 70% of Australia's processed pork products (ham, bacon etc) have been produced from cheap imported pork.
Butchers agreed that a good, traditionally smoked ham has an even golden-brown tan on the skin, with nice pink meat, and definitely no fluid in the bag if they're cryovacced.
And a traditional ham will last much longer than a liquid-smoked ham, which has a very short life expectancy.
- Rich golden-brown tanned skin
- Bright pink flesh
- Dry in bag
What to avoid:
- Pale flesh
- Any hint of moisture in bag
- Light golden skin