Connoisseurs of cheese, wine, or craft beer will be the first to tell you just how complex and nuanced their favorite indulgences are. At The Great Artisanal Ham Tasting events, held in Brooklyn and California, pork experts from around the world demonstrate just how multi-dimensional different varieties of ham can be.

Dozens of porcine-loving writers and chefs involved in the event came together to taste dry-cured hams from around the world and craft a unique ham rating system. The tasting guide helps the ham eater identify the multitude flavors pork has to offer, based on the age, breed, feed, curing method, and locality of each slice of meat.

According to the pork experts, these are some of the top flavor notes to look out for next time you dig into a piece of ham:

Saltiness

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Depending on how the pig was cooked, a ham high in salt should give the taster an idea of just how old the meat is.


Cheesiness

3

A drying ham should have a more cheesy flavor, giving the meat a more intense flavor.


Nuttiness

6

A nutty piece of ham can change based on how the pig was raised, it’s breed, and what it was fed. It should taste like an acorn or a peanut.


Sweetness

2

Depending on how sweet the piece of pork is, you should be able to taste maple, honey, or vanilla flavors.


Fruit

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A fruity ham will taste similar to a plum, cherry, apricot, or grape.


Twang4

A “twang” piece of ham should have an earthy taste to it which happens during the fermentation process. Similarly, an “herbal” ham should have a grassy or herbal taste to it.


Umami

1

An umami-flavored ham should be well-balanced with a savory component to it.

To see an enlarged version of the complete ham flavor guide, head to edwardsvaham.com.

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[via Edwards Virginia Smokehouse]