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Tasso Ham at a Glance
South Louisiana, USA
Type of Charcuterie
Dry Cured Meat, Smoked
Pork shoulder, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic, curing salt, sugar
Tasso, smoked Tasso
Tasso Ham Description
Tasso ham is a heavily smoked meat that is almost synonymous with Cajun/Creole cuisine. It is a product of the rich culinary mélange found in Louisiana. Although this smoked meat is similar in many ways to the French originating andouille, the term Tasso is Spanish in derivation. It comes from the Spanish word tasajo which means a slice of cured dried meat.
The earliest mention of this goes back to the mid to late 1700's where a salted and dried meat strips called Tassagear are made. In the 1800's sun dried buffalo strips are made into tasajo and sold in French settlements. Similarly to andouille, the tradition of making these dried meats was carried on by immigrants.
Today's Tasso ham as known by many is a heavily smoked and spiced meat. The term ham, may actually lead to some confusion, since this processed meat is not made from the same parts that ham is made from. Rather than being produced from pork leg, it is made with pork shoulder.
The pieces are then cured using the curing salts and sugar and left to set for about 3 to 4 hours to help preserve it. This is followed by rinsing and a generous seasoning of salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and garlic which gives it much of its flavor.
The spiced Tasso strips are then hot smoked using hardwood for up to 2 days to create a rich flavor and help dry the meat. The dried smoked meat is then cut across the grain to produce 3 inch (76 mm) strips. It may also be cut into chunks depending on the dish being prepared. Like ham it has a dark outer color and is pink on the inside.
Due to the spices used when producing Tasso, it has that familiar hot and spicy taste that is common among Cajun foods. Coming from the fatty portion of the pig, this processed meat is full of flavor.
The cooking process also allows this to have a heavy smoke taste. Its smell is likewise smoky and peppery. This is considered a delicacy and can be eaten alone when sliced thinly. The more common use for it is as a form of seasoning for soups, vegetables, gumbo, red beans, jambalaya and rice.