About fifteen years in the past, Sam W. Edwards III realized that nation ham wanted a little bit of a rebrand. The third-generation ham maker, primarily based in Surry, Virginia, was attempting to persuade the world that nation ham had rather more nuance, historical past, and craftsmanship than these thick, low-cost, skillet-fried steaks that individuals had been used to feasting on at waffle homes and Cracker Barrel outposts.
He introduced some 18-month-aged, pasture-raised, heritage pork ham to Union Sq. Cafe in New York to do his greatest to persuade Carmen Quagliata, the chef on the time. “You put together it such as you would a prosciutto or a serrano,” he instructed the chef. “We’re going to name it Surryano.” Union Sq. Cafe put it on the menu with this tongue-in-cheek nickname, and shortly after, Edwards’s cellphone began ringing.
Though the identify is a nod to one in every of Spain’s most well-known hams, the custom of elevating fatty, closely marbled heritage breeds of pork, dry-curing them with salt, and growing older them till the meat is agency, shiny purple, and full of umami is as American as apple pie. And as our charcuterie boards develop heavier with imported specialty meats from Spain, Italy, and France, a brand new era of stateside ham producers try to show that America can do it simply as properly, if not higher.
For Edwards, this revival has been not only a solution to pay tribute to the prolonged dry-curing strategies his grandfather utilized in within the Twenties, ’30s, and ’40s, but additionally a solution to revive heritage breeds. “Within the ’60s and ’70s, it turned extra of an industrialized-type pork, the place they had been attempting to make pork the ‘different chicken.’ Tremendous lean, theoretically more healthy, and so forth,” he says. However lately, farmers have sought to carry again breeds like Berkshires, Purple Wattles, Tamworths, and Gloucestershire Outdated Spots.
The custom of elevating fatty, closely marbled heritage breeds of pork, dry-curing them with salt, and growing older them till the meat is agency, shiny purple, and full of umami is as American as apple pie.
“I feel that, generally, there’s a renaissance to valuing correct heritage breeds being raised a sure manner and being dealt with in a extra artisanal trend, fairly than industrial practices,” says Kurt Oriol, cofounder and accomplice of Iberian Pastures in Georgia. In an effort to carry a few of Oriol’s Spanish heritage to American grocery shops, Iberian Pastures began elevating Ibérico pigs in 2014, that are bought as quite a lot of pork merchandise, together with a salt-cured Spanish-style jamón and a paleta (constructed from the shoulder) which can be each produced by La Quercia in Iowa. In New Jersey, Rodrigo Duarte has been elevating purebred Alentejano Ibérico pigs since 2016, caring for the animals and dry-curing the meat with centuries-old Portuguese strategies, feeding them Portuguese acorns and chestnuts, and growing older the meat in a room that mimics the temperatures and humidity ranges of the altering seasons.
Sam Suchoff, the founder and proprietor of Woman Edison in North Carolina, makes a ham that might be at residence on a charcuterie plate alongside a few of these Spanish and Portuguese-style jamóns, however he resists the comparability to European kinds. His Lady Edison Extra Fancy Country Ham, which gained a Good Meals Award in 2017, is a ruby-hued, funky ham that’s aged for 12–18 months. However it’s made with North Carolina pigs, following the USDA specs for the salt and moisture ranges required to qualify as a rustic ham. “It’s under no circumstances an American prosciutto or an American jamón,” he stresses. “What’s further fancy about it's that we’re utilizing high quality pork, and we’re giving it time to age.”
Suchoff says that he likes to have a couple of slices of his nation ham with a Miller Excessive Life and lime, or a dry sherry. “A part of me hates to say that, as a result of I don’t need to seem to be it’s one thing that may’t be loved in an American setting, with an American meal,” he says, “However one thing like a dry sherry is type of unbeatable.”
Woman Edison ham has appeared on the menu at Momofuku eating places, is beloved by Tom Colicchio, and is at the moment on the menu at & Sons, a Brooklyn bar that celebrates the vary and breadth of American hams—from Tennessee’s well-known Benton’s to a Hudson Valley prosciutto—paired with an all-American wine record.
The bar was opened in 2020 by André Mack, a sommelier who had beforehand labored on the French Laundry and Per Se. The rotating menu of a couple of dozen hams are sliced on American-made Berkel meat slicers and served alongside home farmstead cheeses and cornbread madeleines. Mack was struck by the concept for the bar, satirically, whereas consuming jamón in Spain. “If you go to a jamón bar, there’s no wine or any merchandise from another nation than Spain,” he factors out. “The glowing water’s from there!”
It occurred to him that America had its personal wealthy tradition of ham and wine to be celebrated and served with the identical stage of care and satisfaction. Serving solely American ham at his bar was much less a press release of nationalism and extra of a solution to highlight a number of the craftsmanship that’s usually neglected in favor of the European stuff. “We have now people who find themselves growing older nation hams for 42 months,” he says. “San Daniele [prosciutto] is 24. And it’s like, I don’t get it. What’s the distinction?”