Q & A - Rays Country Ham

Q & A

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Question: I am looking to add this to my hurricane food supply; what is the shelf life of the hams?

Answer: The USDA requires us to put an expiration date on each package. However, as a cured meat product, it has a water activity Aw rating of .91 or less, and as long as the vacuum seal is not broken, it has an extended shelf-life when kept in a cool, dry place.

Question:How long will the ham last in the fridge after opening the vacuum seal?

Answer: Thank you. That is an excellent question to share with our customers. After you open the vacuum package, any unused portions should be sealed in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator. We recommend that they be cooked and consumed within 10-14 days. However, Country Ham freezes well and can be stored in the freezer for extended periods, just like any other fresh meat product. 

Question: Is this produce processed in the USA?

Answer: Ray's Country Ham is produced from a fresh farm to facility locally grown pork hams, cured in the Original Blue Ridge Mountain Style of Ray’s Country Ham Company, LLC, Mt. Airy, North Carolina, USA.

Question: I just ordered a 16 lb. bone-in ham for Christmas. Would I soak it overnight and then cook it on Christmas Day? Or does the ham come with directions?

Answer: Your Country Ham will come with an "Owner's Manuel," which includes the following soaking and cooking suggestions:

A country ham must first be washed and soaked for 12-24 hours before cooking, depending on the saltiness of taste desired. Recycle the soaking water frequently every 4-6 hours. The curing process provides a Country Ham's unique flavor and removes some moisture. Soaking will enhance the natural juices and tenderness of the ham in addition to reducing saltiness,

Stovetop Option: Cook on the stovetop by placing the ham in a pot large enough for it to be covered with water and bring to a simmer, which is about 190° F or 90° C, for 25 minutes per pound to an internal temperature of 162° F or 72° C., adding water as needed.

Roasting Option: Place the ham in a roasting pan with the skin side up and add 4 cups of water or apple cider. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 300° F or 150° C for 20 minutes per pound to an internal temperature of 162° F or 72° C.

Glazing: After cooking and while still warm, remove the skin and about half of the fat layer on the outside of the ham. Score, apply your favorite ham glaze recipe, and place in the oven at 400° F or 200° C for 15 minutes until golden brown.

Question: How long does this last open and out of the fridge? I'm trying to prepare for hurricane season.

Answer: Our Country Ham is a great thing to stock for Hurricane Season. It is fully salt-cured, vacuum-packed, and shelf-safe in a dry, cool place for an extended period without refrigeration. Once a package is opened, it should be cooked and consumed or tightly wrapped and refrigerated. The vacuum packs also freeze well and, when thawed, remain shelf-safe until the package is opened. Use-by dates are required for the USDA-inspected certification; however, Country Ham remains at its peak cure for twelve months or more if handled as described. 

Question: I have never had country ham. What ordinary ham is it closer to?

Answer: The closest taste comparison might be Spanish Jamón Ibérico ham or Italian prosciutto, although there are significant differences in taste, texture, and flavor. However, it is salt-cured and naturally air-dried, so the taste is salty and robust. Those familiar with Country Ham find our ham to be just what they remember and crave. However, those unfamiliar with Country Ham's saltiness and intense flavors sometimes feel this ham is not for them. I suggest you order some of our Biscuit Cuts to see if you like the taste before investing in a whole ham.

Question: How do you prepare slices?

Answer: Our Country Ham is sliced thin intentionally, requiring the minimum amount of cooking to preserve tenderness and moisture. In curing our Country Ham, we remove about 20% of the moisture content, so it is important not to overcook.

We recommend preheating a heavy skillet to a medium-high temperature and add two tablespoons of cooking oil. When you place the ham into the skillet, it should produce a rapid sizzling sound. Don't worry if turning your exhaust fan on high is also necessary. If the ham curls up, quickly use a knife or shears to nip the edges in a few places so it can lay flat in the pan.

However, you want to turn it in 45-60 seconds as you see the top side bead up a bit. The ham is practically done and should be removed and platted in another 45-60 seconds. If you like "red-eye gravy," you can quickly add about 1/4 cup of coffee, scrape up any residue in the pan, then boil this down by about 1/2. Pouring this into a small dish and using it as a side condiment to taste is recommended.

Question:Do you have sugar-cured hams?

Answer: No, we do not offer sugar-cured hams. Our Country hams are drastically different from their more common cousin, the sugar-cured ham, also known as city ham. One of the most distinctive flavors of Country Ham is its salty taste, which is to be expected. Ray’s Country Ham is hand rubbed with our unique cure mix of salt, sugar, and other spices, producing a Country Ham that is more complex than sugar-cured ham, with an almost addictive taste, aroma, and texture quite unlike any other, and that only be called Country Ham.

Question: Are the hams smoked and cooked?

Answer: No, they are not smoked and require cooking. Our Country Hams are naturally air-cured with salt sugar through the traditional seasonal process that produces a ham drastically different from wet-cured ham, also known as City Ham. The flavor of Country Ham is more complex, with an almost addictive taste, aroma, and texture that can only be described as Country Ham!

Question: Would the flavor be enhanced if you cooked this ham in a BBQ smoker at the temperatures in your dinner ham recipe?

Answer: Smoked Country Ham is the preferred flavor among ham producers in Tennessee and Kentucky. Virginia and Blue Ridge Mountain Cured hams do not use smoking as part of their cure. However, if you use your BBQ Smoker, you will be pretty pleased with your results. We encourage you to follow the procedures recommended in our "Owner's Manual" for soaking your ham for at least 24 hours with frequent changes of cold water. Doing this in a Coleman-type cooler works well because it is easy to drain and refill for the water changes. The soaking will reduce the salt content, which might be enhanced by the smoking process, and add additional moisture, which the smoking process will deplete.

Question: How is the ham shipped and stored?

Answer: Our Whole Hams and our vacuum-packed Slices are shipped and handled differently:

Our Whole Bone-in Country Hams are picked from the final curing stage and prepared for shipment by being wrapped in butcher paper to prevent dripping in transit and placed into a cotton bag for individual case packaging. As cured meat products, they are certified as shelf-safe without refrigeration by the USDA and are shipped through common carriers such as USPS and UPS. When a whole ham arrives, please open the wire seal on the bag and remove the butcher paper so the ham can breathe.  For storage, place the ham back in the bag and keep it in a dry cool place where it will continue to cure.

Our vacuum-packed slices have USDA USDA-approved shelf-life of ten months and are shipped without refrigeration. When they arrive, they may be warm, and this will not affect the safety, taste, and quality of the ham. However, they should be stored in a dry cool place. Once the packages are opened, the ham should be consumed, refrigerated, or frozen. 

Question: How long is this ham aged?

Answer: Our Country Hams are aged between 3 to 4 months with technology that successfully duplicates the traditional 11-12 months aging period. From the day the highest quality green hams arrive from our farms within 24 to 36 hours post-harvest, we followed the traditional methods for dry-curing hams used for generations on the family farms of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. We hand rub each ham to absorb our unique salt-cure mix. We daily monitor and test for moisture loss and salt equalization. The ham ages with gradual temperature changes as needed to mirror the natural curing process from the annual seasons of winter, spring, summer, and fall. With this advanced technology and without any artificial additives, we naturally create the complex flavor and texture that can only be called a Country Ham, with an addictive taste, aroma, and texture like no other in 3 to 4 months. 

Question: Years ago, hams were hung in smokehouses until needed. Can this ham be hung up with a cheesecloth covering in a dark area without refrigeration?

Answer: Yes, a Country Ham can be stored in a dry, cool place for an extended period. The bag should be opened when it is received, and the plastic wrapping to prevent dripping during shipment should be removed. The bag can then be replaced for protection from insects, etc. It will be best if used within 10-12 months after receiving it. It loses water content, becomes drier, and goes past its prime as it ages. Also, it is customary for a ham to develop a coating of mold, which can be washed off with cold water and a stiff brush.

Question: Is this ham fully cooked?

Answer: No. Our Country Ham is fully cured but must be cooked by raising the internal temperature to 155F. This ham is fully SLICED, so it is unsuitable for baking. The slices are best prepared by searing in a heavy skillet. These slices are about 1/4" thick. The cured edges should be trimmed, leaving as much fat as desired. Place a tablespoon of oil in the skillet and heat until the oil is hot and begins to shimmer. Add the slices of ham and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side until the 160F internal temperature is reached. Do not overcook in that it dries and toughens the ham. Upon removing the ham, you can deglaze the pan with a half-cup of coffee or water to make "red-eye gravy."

Question:I received the package Sunday afternoon. It was left in the mailbox at our office. Luckily, my son was there and got it out of the mailbox. The mailbox is black and in the hot afternoon sun. This ham was shipped without cooling and was exposed to the ambient temperature. Is this ham safe?

 Answer: Thank you for your message. Country Ham is salt and naturally dry-cured, reducing the water content to a level that the USDA designates it as “Shelf-Safe,” therefore, it can be shipped and stored until the vacuum package has been opened. However, it is recommended that to preserve the freshness of the slices, they be stored in a dry-cool place if not refrigerated. 

 All of this is to say that your package is safe to eat; however, exposure to the heat you reference from a prolonged period can cause the ham to develop a disagreeable odor and taste. 

 I suggest you chill the package in the refrigerator before opening to congeal the oils the heat may have generated. Then, when you open the package, lay each slice on a flat surface, scrape with the knife's edge, and trim to remove any residual cure material from the outer edges. Then, give the slices a reasonable smell test and try cooking a sample in a hot skillet with a bit of oil for about one minute on a side to get an internal temperature of 155F degrees. 










All Natural, No Preservatives, No GMO ~ Ready to Eat

Step into a culinary journey where American flavors meet the essence of Spain. Rays, a renowned brand celebrated for its authentic American Country, Ham, has joined forces with a renowned family-owned producer of Spain's national treasure, Jamón Serrano.

Unique Atmosphere-Controlled 4oz Trays

In the heart of the USA, Rays expertly slices the Jamón Serrano, carefully packaging it in unique atmosphere-controlled 4x4oz trays. It's akin to the daily slices found in bustling local markets across Spain but is now readily available for home delivery.

What sets this treasure apart is its natural preparation. No nitrates or nitrites are used; only the finest pork and limited sea salt are employed. The result is a healthy, protein-packed, gluten-free delight tantalizing your taste buds without additives.

Rays Jamón is the Answer for all Occasions

If you're a fan of dry-cured Country Ham like we are, then you're in for a treat with our Serrano ham. It's the perfect match for those who crave the rich flavors of naturally dry-cured ham in today's fast-paced, health-conscious world. Whether you're hosting an elegant soirée or looking for a quick, healthy snack on the go, Rays Jamón Serrano is the answer. It effortlessly fits into lunch bags and backpacks or even finds its place at tailgate parties.

It's a Taste that Spans bothTime and Geography.

Rays Country Ham hails from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, while Serrano Ham, which means "mountain country ham," has been a beloved tradition in the Spanish mountains for centuries. The shared element? The dry mountain air gives both hams their distinctive yet incredibly unique flavors and two families, continents apart, devoted to superior quality.

Click on the RECIPES tab in the Munu Bar for

these easy and delicious Jamón Serrano dishes.