A second washing and curing application are completed in May, with final preparations for the State Fair made in August. Each county extension service has a designated location for hams in their area to age.
In addition to the curing process, youth must complete six hours of training in the livestock certification program to be eligible to submit their ham at the State Fair. This training provides 4-H'ers with insight about the history of country ham production and the current country ham industry.
During the State Fair, hams are judged on aroma, lean-to-fat ratio, and appearance by country ham producers and meat buyers. Hams are divided into two different categories, smoked and non-smoked hams, and by the age of the youth. Youth are also required to give a three to five minute presentation on a specific topic related to country ham production, which accounts for 60 percent of the overall score.
After the contest, youth can choose to keep their hams or give them to family members.
Over the years, the 4-H country ham project has provided youth with an excellent education about the food industry, especially country ham production. This project allows youth to have an awareness of where their food comes from and how it is prepared for grocery stores. In addition, 4-H'ers gain a historical perspective about food preservation prior to the use of refrigeration.
The deadline for youth interested in participating in the 4-H country ham contest at the 2010 Kentucky State Fair is Dec. 4. There is no cost to conduct the project. For those interested in learning more about the country ham project area, a workshop regarding country ham production will be offered during the Kentucky 4-H Volunteer Forum in February.
To participate, or for more information, contact the Clark County Cooperative Extension Service.