Unlike Middle Eastern and some Mediterranean countries where lamb is the preferred centerpiece of the annual Easter meal, the American custom of eating ham at that time stems from Northern Europe where pork is the predominant dietary mainstay. In ages past when modern refrigeration wasn’t available, what could not be eaten immediately was preserved during the winter months either through a brining or smoking process. In the spring, the preserved pork, now transformed to ham, was ready for consumption.
Serendipitously, the timing coincided with the annual Easter feast, and ham became the Easter meal highlight by the late 6th century. As waves of European immigrants settled in America, their food traditions were absorbed into our culinary melting pot. Chief among them is the delicious baked ham that has become the featured entree on most American Easter menus.*
Fun facts about Ham for the Holidays
Three of the most successful products marketed at Hormel Foods since the very beginning are hams, bacon and fresh pork. Not surprisingly, these three products are still thriving in our company today. Learn more in From the beginning: The brands with ingredients to success
*Source: Long-time food historian Edythe Preet, author of feature series Slainte! Good Cheer!, which has been running in Irish America Magazine for more than 20 years.