Five Facts About Virginia Ham
We love our Virginia-style country ham all year long, but it just isn’t the holidays without one on the table. Here are a few things you should know about this swine-o-mite dish:
1. Country ham is complex; it must be cured with salt and other seasonings and hung in a smokehouse for months to soak up the rub and aromatic hardwoods, all the time releasing moisture and creating a concentrated, other-worldly array of textures and tastes.
2. Curing meats has long been a way to preserve food; it is likely that some of the first cured hams in this country were produced by the Jamestown settlers some 400 years ago.
3. The nation’s first commercial country-cured ham was sold by Captain Mallory Todd in the late 1700s in the town of Smithfield. Exportation grew by leaps and hams … err, bounds … Queen Victoria had them shipped to her regularly, and Virginia ham was found on the menus of the finest restaurants worldwide.
4. Virginia country ham was on the menu of the last luncheon served on the Titanic.
5. So serious are food aficionados that a group of porkologists recently met in New York City to blind taste a dozen or so Virginia country hams alongside products from other Southern states, Spain and Italy to develop a lexicon of tasting terms on cured, long-aged hams much like that used with wines and cheese.