Ham vs Bacon vs Pork

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Many people are unsure of the difference between pork, bacon and ham. Pork is, quite obviously, the meat taken from a pig. But where do bacon and ham come in? Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cooking supplies the answer:

Bacon is obtained from a side of pork from which the head and feet have been removed. The side is then salted for a suitable time to provide green bacon. In the South of England much bacon is further treated by smoking, exposure for 24 to 48 hours to the smoke from slow-burning hardwood dust such as oak.

She then goes on to explain that gammon is a cut of bacon taken from the leg, streaky bacon is from the belly and back bacon (called Canadian bacon in the USA for some reason) from the back… no surprises there. Ham is bacon, traditionally gammon to be exact, that is boiled or baked.

While we’re at it:

Brawn is the meat from the head of the pig, boiled and set in gelatin.
SPAM is a contraction of “spiced ham”. It’s made from seasoned cooked pork shoulder meat and ham, which is then compacted and tinned.
Pancetta is an italian spiced streaky bacon.
Prosciutto crudo (often referred to as Parma ham) is an Italian uncooked cured pork, but safe to be eaten raw.
Prosciutto cotto is a cooked form of the above, often used on pizzas.
Pork Martini — weird.
Update: Jamon (serrano|curado|reserva) is essentially the Spanish equivalent of prosciutto crudo. Serrano means “mountain”, “curado” means “cured” and “reserva” means “reserved” — all of them are essentially meaningless marketing terms — “jamon” is the only word you need to pay attention to, and it’s the Spanish word for “ham”.

Boiled Ham


2—3 lb (1—1.5 kg) chunk of gammon
4 sticks of celery
1 large onion
2 tbsp whole black pepper corns
4 cloves
4 bay leaves
Large handful of parsley (optional)
Small handful of sage (optional)


Soak the gammon overnight in cold water. This allows excess salt to diffuse out of the meat.

Peel the onion and chop cross-ways into four thick slices. Arrange these at the bottom of a large cooking pot. Place the gammon on top of the onion, so that it does not directly touch the base of the pot. Roughly chop the celery, and add it, along with the herbs and spices to the pot. Add enough water to fully submerge the gammon.

Gently boil the gammon for 1 hour for every pound (500 g) of its weight, plus one extra hour.

Remove the cooked ham from the pot and allow to cool in a bowl, covered. As the ham cools, a small amount of gelatin may form around its base.

The liquid remaining in the pot can be used as a good base for soups or stews, but may need diluting as it will be very salty.