Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Ham Tasting

American country hams are tragically underappreciated. Few people know that across the mid-south, we have purveyors of cured hams comparable in quality to Italian prosciutto and Spanish jamon. Last year, I wrote about my experience buying a leg of Newsom's Ham Country Ham.

Recently, I was lucky to join a group of friends in a country ham tasting, featuring five hams from Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.  Below are the hams we tasted ranked from my fifth to first place pick. In parenthesis I've listed the number that corresponds to the picture above.

5.  Edward's Virginia Smokehouse, Surry, VA (#5 in the picture). The aroma was very smoky with some bacon notes. Texture is very dry. Palate was very salty and very smoky. There were fat on edges but it was fairly lean overall. It has a funky finish and is a bit peppery. This one had more smoke and salt than pork flavor. It was very dry and the only one I really didn't care for.

4. Kite's Country Hams, Wolftown, VA (#2). This one had a funky, gym sock aroma. The texture was moist, medium salty, with not much smoke; it was fairly fatty. It was more funky on the aroma than the palate. It had a nice fresh taste and a soft mouthfeel. It was pretty good stuff.

3. Col. Bill Newsom's, Princeton, KY (#3). This is the ham I wrote up last year. The aroma was bacony. The texture was medium between dry and moist.  On the palate, it was medium salty and very smoky with lots of bacon flavor. It was nicely veined with medium funk. Bacon notes ruled this one; it is very tasty and was a favorite of a number of the tasters.

2. Benton's, Madisonville, TN (#1). This had a nice fresh aroma, dry texture and was fairly salty. There wasn't much in the way of smoke. It was nicely marbled and had some good funk. I thought it was very well balanced, not too extreme in smoke, salt or funky notes.

1. Father's Country Hams, Bremen, KY (#4). This one has a strong aroma of BBQ ribs. The texture was melt-in-your-mouth soft. On the palate, it was fairly salty, not as smoky as the nose with a light funk. It was fairly lean. Most importantly, this one had a beautiful, pure pork flavor. It was super-rich, almost like liver in its richness and was packed with flavor. This one was a transcendent ham for me, about as good as any ham I've eaten.

I have to say, this was probably one of the most fun tastings I've ever done. Hams 1 through 3 were all fantastic. I guess I'm not as big a fan of the Virginia offerings.

If you're not up for a whole ham, many of these producers sell slices or chunks of their great hams. It's a fantastic holiday gift for any pork lover.


kpiz said...

Great post. You've inspired me to order a whole leg for my family this Christmas. Benton's seems to offer an unsmoked leg - do you think that's the one you tried?


cconhhi said...

Penn's Country Hams out of KY are a family Christmas staple for us.

sku said...

kpiz, I'm pretty sure I had the smoked leg.

Anonymous said...

Quick follow-up to my other comment left in the wrong place...

Thanks for the links to the ham producer's web sites. Can you also provide some pointers regarding the specific products that you tasted? There are a ton of choices and I could use some guidance. Cheers

sku said...

So I didn't pick the hams; I just got sent the samples, but they were all whole, aged uncooked country hams.