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Virginia Hams


arbuclo
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Since I recently moved to VA I've been thinking "mmmmm, ham" but I don't know where to find the yummiest ones. Can you order decent ones through a supermarket? Can you suggest better places where I could order and have it home delivered? (I don't have a car.)

Gosh I'm hungry! Answer quick! :raz: (and if there's already a thread on this, please point the way)

A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness. – Elsa Schiaparelli, 1890-1973, Italian Designer

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The finest (except for the ones we put up at home) are here: http://calhounhams.com/

I don't know if the Alexandria farmers market in Old Town is still open this time of year, otherwise get a friend, pay for the gas, and take a nice ride out to Culpeper. They also ship, but you should see store and pick out the one you want.

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I was thinking last night that there are two main considerations when selecting your ham - excuse me if you're already aware of them:

1- cooked or uncooked. While cooking a country ham is not difficult, you will need either a very large stockpot (at least 14" diameter x 20"high) , or a very large and sturdy roasting pan. The stockpot is easier to simmer on the stovetop, the roasting pan with liquid in the oven means you may have to turn the ham while cooking. NOTE: I don't think you need to soak Calhouns hams, but it will have to be scrubbed.

2- size. Unless you plan on entertaining or sharing, a whole ham is a LOT of ham. I usually cook one the second week of December, and it's in the fridge past Christmas. You may wish to consider buying a half (although they're usually sold cooked, and often boneless). I'm not sure what Calhouns does in this respect.

If Calhouns doesn't work for you, my choice of the mass produced hams is the Edwards brand (their Wigwam is the best one in their line), these may be available at Balduccis or the Giant Someplace Special store in McLean. However, I think the effort and slightly greater expense to get a real artisianal ham is well worth it.

Best, Doug

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From another thread:

"First, the best damn country ham I ever ate was bought at a contry store called Laynes, near Lexington, Virginia. No website, but you can call 540-463-7170. It was exquisite stuff, with a velvet texture and a light hand on the salt, kind of a plantation prosciutto, so it didn't need to be soaked, as some country hams do. I left in the fridge wrapped in butcher,s paper for weeks, the only effect being that it seemed to get a little saltier as the moisture continued to evaporate."

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From another thread:

"First, the best damn country ham I ever ate was bought at a contry store called Laynes, near Lexington, Virginia. No website, but you can call 540-463-7170. It was exquisite stuff, with a velvet texture and a light hand on the salt, kind of a plantation prosciutto, so it didn't need to be soaked, as some country hams do. I left in the fridge wrapped in butcher,s paper for weeks, the only effect being that it seemed to get a little saltier as the moisture continued to evaporate."

A friend of mine who lives in the Valley went to Laynes at my request and bought us both some of their country ham. Excellent stuff, per my friend (I haven't tried ours yet). However, in the course of the conversation he had at Laynes, they said they are selling hams from a vendor in Culpeper, i.e., they don't cure their own. I suspect they are getting them from Calhous, but don't know for sure.

Re cost, 1/2 a bone-in country ham (~7 lbs) from Laynes cost me $25.

"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne." John Maynard Keynes

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From another thread:

"First, the best damn country ham I ever ate was bought at a contry store called Laynes, near Lexington, Virginia. No website, but you can call 540-463-7170. It was exquisite stuff, with a velvet texture and a light hand on the salt, kind of a plantation prosciutto, so it didn't need to be soaked, as some country hams do. I left in the fridge wrapped in butcher,s paper for weeks, the only effect being that it seemed to get a little saltier as the moisture continued to evaporate."

A friend of mine who lives in the Valley went to Laynes at my request and bought us both some of their country ham. Excellent stuff, per my friend (I haven't tried ours yet). However, in the course of the conversation he had at Laynes, they said they are selling hams from a vendor in Culpeper, i.e., they don't cure their own. I suspect they are getting them from Calhous, but don't know for sure.

Re cost, 1/2 a bone-in country ham (~7 lbs) from Laynes cost me $25.

Good to know -- especially since the Alexandria Farmer's Market is a hell of a lot closer to my house than either Lexington or Culpeper. I think a field trip is in order.

BTW, how can you have a ham in the house and not eat it? You're a more disciplined person than I.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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thanks for the info everyone. I must admit to never having a country ham but really wanting to try one. Doug, thanks for the tips in that regard. Still hungry... :-)

A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness. – Elsa Schiaparelli, 1890-1973, Italian Designer

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I am confused here. What is the difference between an uncooked ham and cooked. Aren't they both cured? Can someone point out the particulars of a Virginia country ham? I am not too far from Culpepper and am contemplating the drive.

Paris is a mood...a longing you didn't know you had, until it was answered.

-An American in Paris

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From another thread:

"First, the best damn country ham I ever ate was bought at a contry store called Laynes, near Lexington, Virginia. No website, but you can call 540-463-7170. It was exquisite stuff, with a velvet texture and a light hand on the salt, kind of a plantation prosciutto, so it didn't need to be soaked, as some country hams do.

Plantation Prosciutto--what do you mean? Is Laynes' ham cooked or uncooked? Can you eat a country ham without cooking? And is it the flavor or the texture which is prosciutto-like? I've never had a country ham but love, love prosciutto and serrano. Is a country ham also eaten after curing without further cooking? Do country hams have that silky texture?

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From another thread:

"First, the best damn country ham I ever ate was bought at a contry store called Laynes, near Lexington, Virginia. No website, but you can call 540-463-7170. It was exquisite stuff, with a velvet texture and a light hand on the salt, kind of a plantation prosciutto, so it didn't need to be soaked, as some country hams do.

Plantation Prosciutto--what do you mean? Is Laynes' ham cooked or uncooked? Can you eat a country ham without cooking? And is it the flavor or the texture which is prosciutto-like? I've never had a country ham but love, love prosciutto and serrano. Is a country ham also eaten after curing without further cooking? Do country hams have that silky texture?

My wife and I ate ours uncooked over a period of weeks (definition of eternity: two people and a ham). It was the texture that surprised us and reminded us of proscuitto, much silkier than anything we'd had before. And, though we'd been warned we might have to soak it overnight, it seemed perfectly salted to us.

We've eaten country ham in country-diners and from city-groceries before (goes great on a Cubano sandwich, btw), but this was a whole different ballgame. It frankly never occurred to us to cook it, any more than we'd boil and bake a Serrano. You should try one and, if you don't like it, I'll come 'round and take it off your hands.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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here's a quick primer :  http://www.samcooks.com/flavor/CountryHam.htm

Yes, the ham must be cooked. Whole hams are normally simmered. Uncooked slices are fried and served as bacon would be, primarily for breakfast. Hope this helps.

Just for the heck of it I called the Inn At Little Washington just now -- figuring that they'd know as much about this as anyone, certainly more than me -- and one of their cooks was kind enough to take my call and assure me that a fully cured country ham does not need to be cooked. (Though that's certainly an option).

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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So what is the difference? If I wanted a more prociutti or serrano type quality, would a cooked or uncooked be called for? I will also post this on another forum, to see if anyone knows the subtleties.

Charles, thank you for taking the time to call The Inn, it was their ham biscuits I had in mind.

Paris is a mood...a longing you didn't know you had, until it was answered.

-An American in Paris

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In the spirit of scientific inquiry, and because I had to bring my daughter on an errand, I motored out to the Alexandria Farmers Market this morning about 8AM to pick up a Calhoun's ham and pick the brain of whomever selling them, on various questions that have arisen in this thread. Unfortunately, having been up until 4AM due to the Galactic show at the 9:30 Club (y'all owe it to yourselves to hear these guys' brand of N'awlins swamp funk before you die), I was not at my investigative best. I did learn a couple of things, though:

The ham I got from Calhouns is not the same ham I got from Laynes. This could be because the Layne's ham was from a different source, or because the ham I got today had been hanging longer. The voices in my head are telling me that the Layne's guy mentioned when we bought ours that they were younger hams, but the voices are unreliable. They lady who answered the phone at Layne's just now didn't know the name of their supplier. At any rate, the Calhoun's ham is a little saltier and the texture a little less velvety -- it's a more countrified country ham and how you feel about that depends on your mood, I guess. It also wore a cryovac bag, rather than sitting naked and proud on the counter, but that may just be local health regs.

The ham lady at the market says they "don't recommend" eating it raw. The cooking magazine they had open to an article about country ham said that the feds have never been asked whether eating raw country ham was safe, possibly because the ham-curing elite don't wan't an official "no". It further said -- while taking an oblique shot at Southerners' reputed tendency to boil the hell out of everything, that traditional Southern cooks always soak and cook a ham. But it clearly implied that thin-sliced, uncooked country ham was a delicacy. I think the photo caption read: "They don't liken their ham to proscuitto or serrano, because then they'd have to admit that they eat it raw.

For what it's worth, I'm eating sliced ham on Breadline bread, with a smear of mustard as I type this. It's pretty damn good. I'll report back if I notice any ill effects. :biggrin:

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Busboy - did you happen to try (or has anyone else) their miniature pre-made bite sized ham biscuits and if so, are they good enough (taste and looks wise) to pass off like you made them yourself?

I've seen these and contemplated the idea of ordering for a party just to save time if they are on a par with my own, but haven't tried it yet.

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Busboy - did you happen to try (or has anyone else) their miniature pre-made bite sized ham biscuits and if so, are they good enough (taste and looks wise) to pass off like you made them yourself?

I've seen these and contemplated the idea of ordering for a party just to save time if they are on a par with my own, but haven't tried it yet.

I know that buscuits are subject to regional differences and personal preferences, but their buscuits didn't look at all like my Grandma's -- they were more hamburger bun-shaped, wide and short, than the taller, cylindrical biscuits I'm used to. But, for all I know, they taste great.

Keep in mind, with all the Yankees around here (I am one myself, but Mom's from Alabama, so I have dual citizenship), many of your guests won't know the difference but, if you make your own someone will taste the difference and it will make their week. Not to lay a guilt trip on you... :wink:

BTW, a friend of mine from Texas made ham biscuits with jalopeno jelly, once, and they were quite tasty, if you're looking for variations.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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their buscuits didn't look at all like my Grandma's -- they were more hamburger bun-shaped, wide and short, than the taller, cylindrical biscuits I'm used to. But, for all I know, they taste great.

please tell me they don't actually LOOK like miniature hamburger buns or rolls - :huh: just maybe shaped like them? :unsure:

when I'm in a hurry and can't make homemade, I confess that I roll out pilsbury in a can and then cut miniature biscuits from it - a far cry from homemade, but not bad in a pinch. (I might get booted off of egullet for this kind of confession). :shock:

If theirs are an upgrade on this, and I don't have to do the cooking or ham stuffing, that would be a huge help.

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their buscuits didn't look at all like my Grandma's -- they were more hamburger bun-shaped, wide and short, than the taller, cylindrical biscuits I'm used to. But, for all I know, they taste great.

please tell me they don't actually LOOK like miniature hamburger buns or rolls - :huh: just maybe shaped like them? :unsure:

when I'm in a hurry and can't make homemade, I confess that I roll out pilsbury in a can and then cut miniature biscuits from it - a far cry from homemade, but not bad in a pinch. (I might get booted off of egullet for this kind of confession). :shock:

If theirs are an upgrade on this, and I don't have to do the cooking or ham stuffing, that would be a huge help.

I just glanced at them, overtired and a smidge hungover, so don't take my word as gospel. But, at a quick glance, they looked more like "rolls" than "biscuits." Of course, it's the texture once you bite into the things that really tells -- yeast versus baking powder. Having not bit, I confess that they may well be lovely. The just didn't look right to me. (my confession: I love the biscuits from Popeye's. Not Grandma's, but pretty tasty.)

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I noticed that *Gourmet* lists Edwards as a source in the recent cookbook edited by Reichl.

I have only had the company's ham steak which is carried by a small grocery store in Cleveland Park. It's extremely good, so I imagine the larger hams are the real thing, too.

Edited to remove a vowel. Why does this practice of explaining nature of transgression make me feel so ten-year old in ankle socks and cotton gloves, kneeling, head bowed?

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I should note here that Cibola Farms, which also deals in buffalo meat and hangs out at the Dupont Circle and Mt. Pleasant markets sells home-cured hams by the thick slice. Can't vouch for it -- I have a lot of other ham to get through, before I buy more -- but if their (ridiculously expensive but spectacularly good) bacon and pork chops are any indication, the ham is well worth investigating. Their goat's pretty good, too.

More info here.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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