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Ham center slice is a specific cut of meat from the leg of a pig. It is generated whenever a full bone in ham is cut into two halves, and it is often sold separately, since it is considered a delicacy in some regions. As a general rule, the ham center slice is more juicy, tender, and flavorful, and it can be used in a variety of dishes. In the American South especially, ham center slice is a popular holiday brunch food.
The hind legs of a pig are both known as hams. When they are left whole, they are often cured and processed in a variety of ways. However, the ham can also be processed into an assortment of portions, including pork butt and shank, the upper and lower portions of the ham, respectively. When a ham is cut in half, it reveals the ham center slice, a one inch (2.5 centimeter) piece of meat which includes parts of both cuts, along with the leg bone. In some cases, the center slice may be left on the butt or shank cut, or it may be removed for sale separately.
There are a number of different formats for ham center slice. It is often sold fresh, through a butcher or large meat department. Fresh ham center slice can be treated like steaks or chops, and may be grilled, roasted, broiled, or fried. An assortment of marinades and sauces are designed to compliment the center ham slice, which is often sold as a “center cut ham steak” when it is available fresh.
Cured or preserved ham center slice is also available. The cured meat may be dry or wet cured, followed by a long smoking which brings out the natural flavor. Gourmet food companies often smoke their ham center slice extensively, resulting in significant shrinkage, but a dense and powerfully flavored piece of meat. Others prefer a lighter cure, which results in less net loss and can go to market more quickly.
If you are trying to track down ham center slice to experiment with, check with your meat counter or a local butcher. Even if they do not stock the item regularly, they can usually order it for you, especially with ample advance warning. Cured ham center slice may also be available for purchase, or you can special order it from a regional butcher. In the United States, Southern hams are very famous, and many companies offer ham center slice as part of their array of pork products.
I love a good piece of center sliced ham with about three scrambled eggs and buttery wheat toast slathered in strawberry jelly. Breakfast perfection.