Photo Credit: Stockbyte/Armstrong Studios/Getty Images
The cut of meat from a hog's hind leg, generally from the middle of the shank bone to the hip bone, is referred to as a ham. The unprocessed meat is referred to as fresh ham, but most ham goes through a curing process, after which it's referred to as cured ham.
When buying a fresh ham, look for one with a firm white layer of fat -- a well-marbled lean portion. Loosen any packaging material and store the fresh ham in the coldest part of the refrigerator for up to five days. Blogger Lisa Fain of the Homesick Texan has step-by-step instructions on how to cure a ham.
If you're looking for a ham that is already cured, choose one that's firm and plump. The meat should be finely grained and rosy pink. You can refrigerate in the ham's original wrapping for up to a week. Check the ham's packaging for cooking and serving instructions.
"Ready to eat" ham, like spiral cut ham, can be served as-is at room temperature or warmed in the oven.