A whole ham is a huge and somewhat intimidating piece of meat: the entire hind leg of a pig. It typically weighs 6-9 kg or 13-20 lb, from which you can expect to get 4-5 kg or 9-12 lb of meat. The rest is bone, skin, and if you are excessively fastidious, fat. Its enormous advantage is that it keeps an extraordinarily long time and is unbelievably convenient. It will last several months, and whenever you want, you can cut off anything from a small sliver to a thick slice, for a snack, an aperitif, a breakfast or even (cooked with, say, cabbage or beans) a hearty dinner.

Although it appears expensive, it is in fact an investment. A ham bought when you are in funds will sustain you in lean times and by its very presence cheer you up. Too weary to cook anything? Ham. No time to go shopping? Ham. Friends drop by unexpectedly? Ham. Then there are some really elegant dishes, such as pork loin braided with ham, and some incredibly warming winter dishes such as Camembert and ham. None of them is difficult to make, though one or two (such as the pork loin) are a bit fiddly.

You never use much of the stuff , which is why it's normally sold in tiny packages: typically, 100g (3.5 ounces) finely sliced. There is however an enormous difference between a few miserable slices drying and curling in the refrigerator, and a ham waiting for you.

The cost of a good ham will vary enormously, according to where you are. 

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