Have lots of leftover holiday ham, and wondering if you can freeze some of it to enjoy later? What if the ham hasn't been cooked yet? Can it go back in the freezer? The answer to both is yes. It's perfectly safe to refreeze ham (both cooked or uncooked), as long as it was thawed in the refrigerator (Other methods of thawing aren't recommended). Here's what you need to know to get good results.
How to Freeze and Refreeze Ham
For safety purposes, ham should be refrozen within three days of thawing. There may be a slight change in quality due to the moisture lost during thawing, which can affect the texture of your defrosted meat. Do not refreeze ham that's been left outside the refrigerator longer than two hours. Make sure the meat is packaged properly so it doesn't get freezer-burned.
If you have a lot of ham to freeze, think about dividing it into smaller portions before you stick it in the freezer. This will allow you to pull out individual packages, without having to thaw out the whole ham.
How to Thaw Your Ham
To use your ham after it's been frozen (or refrozen), remove the package of frozen ham from the freezer, and allow it to defrost in the refrigerator. Depending on the size, it should thaw completely in about 24 to 48 hours. If you're dealing with a smaller portion, or need to thaw it out faster, there are some tricks that can thaw your ham in as little as 30 minutes.
Don't Forget to Freeze the Ham Bone
Be sure to freeze the ham bone, while you're at it. It can be used to make a delicious pot of soup or broth. Just be warned: Once you taste ham broth, you may never settle for chicken broth again.
Uses for Leftover Ham
Consider using your ham to make finished meals that you can freeze for later. Ham soup and quiche are simple to make, and they both freeze beautifully. When you're short on time, having ready-made meals that you can pull out and reheat is a real luxury.
If you don't want to spend a bunch of time cooking now, consider chopping some -- or all -- of your ham before you freeze it. This will make it easy to add to pasta dishes, casseroles and soups. As long as you use it in a dish that will be heated, you don't even have to thaw it first.
Keep up With What's in Your Freezer
Be sure to label and date your ham before you put it in the freezer, so you don't lose track of it. Frozen ham will keep indefinitely, but is best used within a year.
Want to learn more about refreezing foods? The USDA Safe Food Handling website has a lot of useful information.