Use Ginger Ale To Balance The Salty Taste Of Ham

Before it is cooked, ham is cured with loads of salt and seasonings in order to inject flavor and increase shelf stability. While this ensures a flavorful product, the salt can oftentimes be a little too powerful. You could go about washing some of that salt off by running the ham under cold water, but there is a better way to balance out the saltiness of this beloved cut of meat. All you need is ginger ale.

As a balancing act for very salty ham, there are a few ways ginger ale can be put to use. A large bottle can serve as a great base for a marinade. Additional herbs and spices will mingle with the sugars and ginger to provide you with an array of complex flavors that will enter into the ham as it soaks in the marinade overnight. While the ham is baking in the oven, you can use any leftover marinade for basting. This will keep the meat from drying out, while also helping create a crispy exterior as the sugars from the ginger ale caramelize in the heat of the oven. 

You could also make a glaze for the ham by simmering some ginger ale with more sugar and other complementary flavors, such as ground allspice. Once it's reduced into a sticky, smooth glaze, spread it over the ham towards the end of baking. The result should be a sweet, aromatic, and wonderfully caramelized crust.

How ginger ale balances salt

While it is all well and good to state that ginger ale balances out the saltiness of a ham, how exactly does it do this? Firstly, ginger ale has sugar on its side. Sugar has long been known as a countering flavor that acts in ways that neutralize salt. For this reason, choose a full-sugar ginger ale variety. The acidity of sodas, too, particularly those with a citrussy flavor profile or that contain citric acid, works as a countermeasure for salty ham. The chemistry is basically that the ions present in the salt, sugars, and acids react to one another in such a way as to form a neutral base.

The other factor is ginger ale's key ingredient. The ginger, though not nearly as much as the sugar, acts as an additional non-salty flavor that helps balance the saltiness. Ginger, though an alkaline as opposed to an acid, can reduce the saltiness of a ham in more ways than just its flavor. Ginger has long been known as a relief for an upset stomach caused by excess sodium intake. It does this by stimulating digestion. This is less true of ginger ale, but some ginger is better than none. 

Don't think that you're sacrificing flavor by balancing out the saltiness of the ham with ginger ale. Quite the opposite. By adding neutralizing ingredients, you allow more subtle flavors that may otherwise have been hidden by a ham's excessive saltiness to shine through.