highest priced ham is one of some 10 to 12 lb.—a nice, plump long ham, fine in the skin and bone, fairly fat, and cut off a carcass of pork furnished by a pig which has not lived more than seven months. This kind of ham is delicate in flavour, short in texture, easily digested and economical. At one time the cold fat ham was one of the standing breakfast dishes in the houses of the wealthy; now a hot ham is far more frequently a favourite course at dinner. Its reappearance in the dining or breakfast room is seldom, so that on economical grounds if on none other, a small ham is preferable to a large one. At the present time Irish hams realize the highest price in the London market, but Canadian and Danish hams are pressing the English and Irish hams very closely. A considerable number of Cumberland and Yorkshire hams are still sent to the southern counties, but the purchasers of these are old-fashioned housekeepers or others having large families to provide for. At one time hams were cut in various fashions; now that the majority of the hams are cured with the side of bacon, the shape or cut of the ham varies but little.
To choose a Ham, select one fine in the bone, then run a skewer in close to the bone to the middle of the ham. If it comes out clean and smells sweet, it is good, but it it smells strong and has fat adhering to it, choose another. If the ham be cut, see that the fat is white and not streaked with yellow. All meat first goes bad near the bone. A ham may not be rancid, yet not of the best quality; it may be too salt or flavourless, owing to improper curing. Connoisseurs still prefer a ham which has been kept for some months, but the difficulty in obtaining them is far greater now than formerly; this is due to two causes, the vastly increased consumption of hams and the change in the system of curing. In a few country districts it is still possible to obtain a supply of aged hams by arranging with an old-fashioned local curer to take a fixed number at certain periods. Of course the purveyor has to charge an extra price to cover risk of loss, interest on capital, etc. There are various ways of keeping hams; the most common is to inclose them in brown paper and calico bags; others again place them in a box covered with malt combs or broad bran.
To Buy Bacon.—In choosing bacon, similar action can be taken, but as a rule the shoulder is the only part likely to be tainted. The enormously increased consumption of so-called breakfast bacon, for which the streaky—or that portion of the side extending from the shoulder to the hip, and about three-fourths of the depth of the side—is most in demand; consequently it realizes much the highest price per lb. Many economical persons now purchase the shoulder and cut it ham shape, so that it often does duty as a ham. It is not so fine in texture and has more bone, but it is certainly an economical joint. The following is a list of the parts into which a side of bacon is now cut in the southern counties, with the current price of each joint of the very best quality:—