ham the hind leg of a pig above the hock joint, cut from the carcass and cured by salting and drying, and sometimes smoking, so that it will keep for months at room temperature. gammon is the same joint as ham, but is left attached to the side during bacon curing, and cut from it afterwards. It is milder in flavour. ‘Ham’, in its more general meaning of the hind leg, is applied to cured meat made from other animals, including wild boar, mutton, goat, venison, and even badger.
The first records of hams come from the classical world. The Romans knew hams made by the Gauls in the last few centuries bc, cured by brining and smoking. Cato described how, in the 2nd century bc, the inhabitants of N. Italy made hams by layering legs of pork with dry salt, followed by drying and smoking.