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As different from canned ham as espresso is from Sanka, country ham is the aristocrat of pig meat. It is utterly elegant, but also powerhouse-potent, so intense that it always is sliced wafer-thin. Like a rare veined cheese, it tickles taste buds by teetering towards a suggestion of rot. In fact, a whole country ham, packed in burlap, requires removal of lots of mold. As a rule, the more mold it has, the yummier it will be. Country ham is a southern thing, most frequently served at breakfast with biscuits and red-eye gravy, but also star of a deluxe dinner table with spoonbread and garden vegetables. It is created by rubbing a whole ham with salt, sometimes sugar or pepper, then curing it for at least half a year while it sheds moisture and its flavor magnifies. To connoisseurs, the older the ham, the finer its character. Some hams are hickory-smoked, giving them a softer taste, but even they pack the commanding flavor of slowly aged pork.