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In Search of Properly Rotten Ham

December 15th, 2017

Yankees Ruin Everything

I feel like writing about something trivial.

Yesterday or the day before, I decided I needed a country ham. More accurately, I needed some form of country ham. Whole or sliced. I was not sure which way to go. Country ham sellers don’t charge much for slicing and bagging ham, and it’s a big help, but I was thinking I might want to age whatever I bought, and I don’t think hams will age well in individual slices.

My grandmother used to make her own hams. They hung a couple of years, and they were wonderful. They had a fermented smell to them, as country hams should, and because they came from pre-food-hysteria hogs, they had a lot of fat. The nincompoops who run the food industry have ruined hogs. They breed them for leanness, which is obscene. Pork has to have fat in order to work. You can’t make gravy without it, and just try making sausage from lean meat. I tried to make sausage from grocery pork, and it was like rubber. I had to grind fatty bacon into it to make it work. Granny used real pork from properly overweight pigs.

I should have looked for pork belly to grind into it, but as I recall, pork belly was hard to find before the fakes and hucksters on cable TV started using it.

When you buy a ham these days, chances are, you will get an abomination which has hung for six months or less. That doesn’t work. It takes a long time for ham to ferment and get the right flavor.

If you go to Cracker Barrel, they will serve you Clifty Farms hams. Unless things have changed, these are 6-month hams. Plenty of salt, but not much flavor. If you go online and buy a ham, you are very likely to get a 6-month ham unless you make a special effort to avoid it. If you’re going to settle for that, you might as well go to the grocery store and buy their fake country ham.

A long time ago, I discovered Gatton Farms. The company has a different name now. They were in Kentucky. They sold very nice hams. Then I noticed the product had changed. The flavor was gone. They told me they were curing their hams for a relatively short time. I switched to Scott Hams, and they were much better, but they went out of business, probably due to incompetence. It was impossible to get them to answer an email, so they were probably irresponsible in all other aspects of their business.

They sold really good sorghum. They sent me a broken jar, and I was never able to get them to respond to my communications so I could get it replaced.

A cousin of mine swears by Col. Newsom’s hams. He goes to pick them up in person. They’re very pricey. They charge $107 per ham, which is about 50% more than I feel like paying. They say their current hams have been hanging about a year, though.

Yesterday, I gave up and ordered some slices from the Gatton Farms people. It will surely be better than Smithfield or Clifty Farms, and it will put something on the table while I look for alternatives.

Here’s an idea I had: why not buy a crummy young ham and hang it a while? Aging is aging. A ham won’t know whether it’s hanging in my closet or in a barn in Kentucky. I may give it a try. It would certainly make the house smell nice. I can get by with my questionable slices while my project ham grows pleasantly funky.

Because all things are made in China and sold via Amazon, I went to Amazon to see if they had hams. Sure enough, a few vendors appeared there (not really Chinese). The ratings were not helpful, though. It was a bunch of city people, whining because they didn’t like country ham per se. “One star! Very salty! WAAAAH!!!! WAAAHHHH!!! MOMMY!!! GLOBAL WARMING!!!” Hey, if you don’t like country ham, why did you buy it? It’s supposed to be salty.

Some companies are selling neutered country ham. “Our delicious hams are not salty!” Then they’re not country ham. It’s as if Guinness decided to sell dyed Budweiser.

The slices should be here in a few days. I feel like letting them sit on the counter for a week to rot. Can’t hurt.

It’s too bad Scott Hams went out of business. They had great hams, sorghum, and some other interesting stuff. Smoked jowls. Real bacon.

I get very good bacon right where I am. I may have written about it. My friend Amanda works at a university, and the university has a “meat lab,” whatever that is. It must give the hippies the cramps, just knowing it’s on campus. State universities have to support agriculture, so the transvestites, communists, and jihadists can’t do much about the meat lab. They sell “bacon steaks,” which are slices of bacon about 3/8″ thick. Really nice, with lots of smoke flavor. I close my eyes and chew and wish it were non-sustainable whale bacon (which really exists).

I’m not as interested in food as I used to be, but I’m not going to dispose of my entire heritage. Country ham is a must, just like biscuits and gravy.

To get back to sorghum, I found a decent buy on Amazon. If you spring for half a gallon, you can get it for $40. That’s not bad, considering the total lack of local availability. The brand is Oberholtzer’s. I have not tried it, but Kentucky is the best place to find good sorghum, and Oberholtzer’s is a Kentucky company.

Most molasses is blackstrap, and it’s bitter. Sorghum, as I understand it, is not really molasses, but it tastes like it, without the bitterness. No one in Kentucky will accept blackstrap.

I’m giving the ham and the molasses a shot. I will report when I have the data.

8 Responses to “In Search of Properly Rotten Ham”

  1. Cliff Elam Says:

    Huh, I buy regular old black molasses in Publix and it’s great. I’m sure I’m not right, but it tastes exactly like what I grew up eating on biscuits in Baton Rouge. (My wife uses that expensive tree blood stuff. Yuck.)

    I know you can’t dry age a single ribeye, you have to have an entire rack. And then you have to be willing to do a lot of trimming after 30 days because the outer edge of meat/fat is … green. I usually turn down my spare fridge a lot when I dry age so I get less mold. YMMV.

    So I bet you can’t age a single slice of ham for the same reason.

    I bet, also, that most hams have been either hit with nitrates or frozen, and I am also pretty sure that hams are different than steak in that hams, once frozen, don’t age. That could be an old wives tale I got from my grandmother as well.

    Good luck!


  2. Lee Says:

    Sorghum is made from grass, rather than sugarcane. My Seventh-Day Adventist grandfather put it on everything.

    You would enjoy talking about the End of Days with him. On the downside, he would try to confiscate your ham and bacon.

    Good luck with your ham odyssey.

  3. Steve H. Says:

    “Sorghum” is actually the name of a plant.

  4. Steve H. Says:

    Lee, you got me reading about this. I found out that both sugar cane and sorghum are considered grasses.

  5. Steve H. Says:

    Cliff, I know it’s safe to leave sliced country ham unrefrigerated for a number of days, so my guess is that you can age it a little bit in the package. Just a guess. It’s a little different from beef, since it’s heavily salted and already cured.

    As for beef, I have dry-aged quite a bit of it. Right now I have a rib roast in the fridge, to be prepared on Christmas Eve.

  6. Heather P Says:

    Ha! I have a jar of Oberholtzer’s. It’s ok. I use it when I make baked beans.
    I will ask my butcher about a country ham, if he does I can put you in touch. He does sell jowls, hocks, and makes his own sausage and bacon, etc, all is which is delicious. I may be the only Kentuckian in the history of the Commonwealth, who doesn’t like country ham. I think it may be the smell that is not to my liking.

  7. Steve H. Says:

    If you don’t like real country ham, maybe you would like one of the user-friendly ones they’re making for hipsters these days. It might have more flavor than canned ham and less funk than the real thing.

  8. Heather P Says:

    So after church, I ran into my butcher at the local pizza shop. I asked him about country ham and he does make carry them. He ages his for one year. Now the bad news. He could sell you one, but he can not ship it. He would have to have a Haz-Mat license to do so. If you are truly interested in one, he can sell it to me and then I (as a private individual) can take it to FedEx and send it to you.