Category: Heritage Pork


Saving the World, One Ham at a Time

Twenty years ago, the bulk of American charcuterie was cheap, commodity product. You could get a domestic prosciutto in a supermarket for half the price of Prosciutto di Parma. More recently, charcuterie in the United States is following the same trend we have seen with wine, beer, cheese, and bread. The talent chain is expanding and quality ingredients are becoming more accessible.

Says Martins, “Two decades ago, if you wanted to buy an imported beer, you paid a premium. American beer was cheap. Now the most expensive and sought-after beer is domestic, handcrafted beer, made in smaller quantities, with the best ingredients.

“The same thing is happening with high-quality charcuterie. Largely because of a new dedication to responsibly-sourced ingredients — heritage breeds, raised on pasture, humanely. The domestic version will be the sought after product. Imports will dwindle. We’ll still love our Italian and Spanish hams, but they won’t be nearly as prevalent, they’ll be nostalgia. The market is changing right before our eyes.”

This new wave is more sophisticated because of the quality of the farming. We are determined to change the taste through better ingredients — and you can’t make a great ham without starting with a great pig.”

There are two approaches to making a great ham — the Old-World style, best-known as Prosciutto di Parma or Jamón Serrano, and the American traditional style that comes out of the deep South, with the added step of smoking — and Heritage Foods is working with outstanding proponents of both:

Broadbent Hams, under the direction of Ronny and Beth Drennan, in Kuttawa, Kentucky, have won championships from the National Country Ham Association. They have recently added a new line of heritage breed, pasture-raised hams to their existing line of Southern Style hams, which goes back 100 years. They represent a new American style of prosciutto — lighter, with a uniquely sweet and salty flavor. The first wave will be available beginning this fall.

Cesare Casella was trained by the Norcini, the great Tuscan traveling butchers. He is a famed New York restaurateur, and Dean of Italian Studies at the International Culinary Center. His Casella’s pasture-raised salami is an astonishingly nuanced example of the artform. His line of Old World-style heritage prosciutto will be available beginning in March and are sure to be a formidable presence, bringing three-hundred years of Italian tradition to the vanguard.

Antonio Fiasche from ’Nduja Artisans continues a great tradition of Italian charcuterie. His family has run Ristorante Agostino in Chicago for over thirty years, and Antonio has led the charge towards expanding a curing business anchored by a wide variety of salamis and their family specialty, ’nduja, a spreadable, spicy, Calabrian pâté, which they have been making for five generations.

Al Benton cures his hams in an ancient smokehouse in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with little consideration for the modern world. Even though Benton is a household name in the South, he is still hands-on and present in all steps of the curing process. He is another famed traditionalist who is forwarding the cause of the American charcuterie renaissance. His strong, salty, smoky hams have always enjoyed a huge following.

In addition, the Heritage Foods roster of great curemasters includes Nancy Newsom, whose grandfather started a curing tradition in his old Kentucky home that allowed seasonal change to flavor the ham naturally; Armondino Batali in Seattle, who creates bold, charismatic salumi from pasture-raised meat; Johnny Hunter, from Underground Meats in Wisconsin; Sam Suchoff and Rufus Brown, from Lady Edison in North Carolina; and Paradise Locker Meats whose injection curing process produces delectable maple sugar hams.

Long-aged hams, salami, and other heritage breed, pasture-raised charcuterie is available directly from Heritage Foods USA.

Our Friend, Angelo Garro

Angelo Garro of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma; spice provider to Alice Waters, Francis Ford Coppola and Werner Herzog; friend to Heritage since the beginning.

Angelo is a master blacksmith by trade and a passionate hunter, forager, cook and Slow Food icon. Growing up in Sicily he learned the wonder of herbs like the wild fennel that grew around his childhood home and the importance of good ingredients — all of Angelo’s home-made salumi and prosciutti are made using 100% Heritage Foods meat.

We visited Angelo a few weeks ago, as we do every winter, in his Forge in San Francisco. He explains that when cooking heritage meat, the simplest of preparation is best. Angelo seasons heritage meats liberally with salt, pepper and spices — he has created a special spice blend that he has been using for years with every meat he cooks called Omnivore Salt — and allows the meat and seasoning to mingle for 30-40 minutes before he sears it quickly over high heat, creating a beautifully crisp outer crust.

Angelo uses wood fire whenever possible, but a cast iron skillet will offer a similar result. For our heritage pork loin, Angelo tosses fresh greens with a simple dressing to create a delicious bed on which the pork is served family-style.

 

Pork Tenderloin

Dreamy Pork Tenderloin: Put the Skillet in the Oven

There aren’t a lot of tricks for making a great roast. But we wanted to share with you one of our favorite methods of cooking a pork tenderloin, not only a house favorite here at Heritage but a never-fail crowd pleaser. When done right it is as elegant as filet mignon, the perfect foundation for dinner parties or just a date for two….

Heritage Bone-In Pork Loin

How to Cook: Your Heritage Bone-In Pork Loin

One of our favorite products and a true crowd pleaser is the 3-4lb. bone-in pork loin, also known as the 5-rib rack.  Delicious roasted whole or cooked as separate chops, this versatile cut can be enjoyed with varieties of vegetables, sauces, and chutneys! Here’s a simple guide on how to cook this no-fuss roast to flavor perfection…

The Perfect Roast for You and Yours

This Holiday Season, Go Big with a Classic Heritage Centerpiece!porchetta

The biggest occasions deserve the best meats in America. Like all of our meats, our centerpieces are raised humanely, on pasture without antibiotics or hormones, and produce the best natural flavor and texture you have ever experienced. These are not your grandma’s pot roast — our beef ribeye, rack of lamb, tenderloin, porchetta, and cured hams are the best of their kind, easy to cook, and sensational to serve for family dinner or the most elegant holidays. And did we mention the leftovers?

Know Your Roasts!

Some meats just seem more festive than others, but you can always count on pleasing the crowd with a Heritage roast or centerpiece. We find beef tenderloin, aka filet mignon, to be perfect for elegant dinner parties. Pork tenderloin, too, is an exquisite focal point for any occasion. Our custom made, hand-rolled porchetta, is a rare treat — crispy and rich and an impressive showstopper for even the meat connoisseur. Leg of lamb, and the celebrated rack of lamb, are perhaps the most festive centerpieces of them all, fit for a royal banquet! Of course cured hams and whole chickens never fail to please, whether it’s a holiday, Sunday dinner, or just a weeknight treat. The best part is that they are all easy to prepare — and spectacular to present!

Prepare Simply for Spectacular Results

A ten pound leg of lamb may seem like a challenge next to a 14 oz. pork chop, but we are here to tell you, don’t worry! Here is the best advice from the Heritage Team and our network of chefs:

There is no wrong way to cook great meat, but we recommend keeping it simple. Just use salt and pepper and your favorite herbs as primary seasoning. We love beef with just salt and pepper, but lamb also loves rosemary and thyme. Pork, too, loves a creative touch, but remember: this is the very best heritage meat in the world, and the flavor is already there, a product of the best breeds, farmed traditionally. There is nothing to hide, the taste says it all.

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Glazed Heritage Ham

Our Guide For The Perfect Ham

Glazed Heritage Ham
Honey Mustard Glazed Heritage Ham.

A beautifully cured ham is one of the most convenient, delicious, and versatile additions to any menu. Because cured hams are fully cooked they are able to be enjoyed hot or cold. This allows for easy entertaining while still offering a delicious and impressive centerpiece. Weighing about 11 pounds each, one bone-in ham will serve 18 guests, or as many as 26 when prepared as part of a family style meal.

A cured hams ability to stay fresh in your refrigerator longer then other meats also adds to its convenience and economic value. When sourced thoughtfully from responsible producers, cured ham is a sustainable alternative to deli meats and other daily convenience foods.

Our heritage hams are expertly prepared by the Fantasma family curemasters and have won numerous awards for their flavor and texture. The most important ingredient in our hams is time– both time spent on the farm where our heritage breeds are allowed to grow and mature naturally, and time in the curehouse, where they are patiently cared for and aged.

Our heritage hams are perfectly balanced in flavor and boast a rich buttery texture with a sweet and savory finish. All of our pork is from pasture raised, hormone and antibiotic free animals. The pigs are raised with care using traditional methods guaranteed to produce the very best tasting meat and are processed at a Certified Humane facility.

Our breeds include Berkshire, Red Wattle, Duroc, Gloucestershire Old Spots, Large Black, and Tamworth. Each heritage breed boasts its own flavor profile, and we encourage you to try them all.

Follow our guide bellow for the perfect ham served hot or cold, and leave a comment with your favorite ham tips!

To Serve Warm

Gently warm the ham in a 325° oven with at least 1/2 cup of water, wine, or stock in the pan. You can cover the ham with foil to help ensure it doesn’t dry out. Using a meat thermometer, remove your ham from the oven at 130-135°. Remember, your ham is already cooked; you’re just warming it through.

If you are planning to use a glaze, wait until the last 15-30 minutes of cooking before applying. Any earlier and you’ll risk burning the sugars in the glaze before the ham has time to warm. Heat your ham low and slow, but don’t be afraid to crank it up at the end to get that nice crispy, caramelized bubbling glaze, always being sure to keep a watchful eye the whole time!

PRO TIP: Allow your ham to rest outside of the fridge before cooking. A room temperature ham will require less total cooking time resulting in a juicier ham! And don’t forget– always rest your meat before carving.

To Serve Cold

Our Maple Sugar Cured hams are fully cooked and ready to enjoy. If you are planning to serve your ham at room temperature simply allow it to rest covered on the counter until the initial chill from the fridge has subsided.

PRO TIP: Left over ham will keep in your fridge for 3 weeks, or it can be frozen for up to 6 months.

The History of Ham

Vintage Ham Ad from 1922
Vintage American Ham Ad, Morris & Company; 1922

The history of ham traces back to ancient traditions. One of the most important prerequisites for the development of civilization was the preservation and storage of food. Drying, smoking, and curing were some of the earliest methods discovered by the ancients. The advent of curing enabled cities, people and cultures to flourish.

The preserving of pork leg as ham has a long history. Many credit the Chinese as being the first people to record curing raw hams, while other have cited the Gauls. It cannot be argued though that it was certainly a well-established practice by the Roman period. Cato the Elder wrote extensively about the “salting of hams” in his De Agri Cultura tome around 160 BC.

The popularity of ham can also be traced to the producers’ geographic location. The conditions required for curing meat need to be such that it is not so cold that the ham freezes, unable to cure, or too warm causing the ham to spoil. The result is distinct areas around the world renowned for their particular hams. Italian prosciutto and Spanish Serrano, as well as American country ham from Kentucky and Virginia are all located on what can be described as the worlds Ham Belt— a geographic area bound by latitude and historically producing the world’s most revered hams. With the advent of technology, climate control and the mechanization of many of our food production methods geographic location has become less important for the production of ham, but these original ham centers are still prized as being the finest ham producing regions today.

Ham remains one of the most consumed pork products in the world. On average Americans eat 193 sandwiches a year, with ham being by far the most popular choice. The curing process for dry cured ham begins by rubbing the fresh ham with salt and sometimes sugar, spices, and nitrates. Italian prosciutto and Spanish Serrano hams are made with a pure salt cure and no added nitrates or nitrites. Some American hams are also nitrate free. When used, nitrates ensure a pink color and cured flavor in a short amount of time, and provide some anti-microbial benefits as well. Nitrates are not a modern addition to the curing process; they have been added to hams in the form of saltpeter for hundreds of years and in the form of impure salts for millennia.

Meat naturally contains a small amount of nitrates, which allow it to take on a beautiful color on its own. The longer a ham is aged, the fewer added nitrates are necessary. Many American hams are cured with brown or white sugar in addition to salt. The sugar is not added for sweetness, but rather to soften the harshness of the salt and the toughening effects of nitrates. Red and black pepper is sometimes added as well, lending some flavor but also discouraging bugs from attacking the ham. Machines are typically used to rub the cure into factory-produced ham, but as any ham artisan will tell you, the hand of the skilled salter is important.

Whatever your ham of choice, join us in celebrating the rich history and tradition of this ancient food.

Fun Ham Facts

Almost every country in the world produces Hams. Here are of some of the better known hams of the world: prosciutto, Westphalian, Parma, Smithfield, Virginia, Kentucky, Country, Canned, Bayonne, York, Mainz, Prague, Asturias, Toulouse, Dijon, Black Forest, Bohemian, Serrano, presunto, Bradenham, Estremadura, Prazska sunks, and szynka.

-Some ham experts prefer ham made from the left leg of a pig, believing it to be more tender. This idea came about after observing that a pigs scratch themselves with their right leg, engaging those muscles more and deducing that the more muscled right leg would be tougher.

-Pigs are not native to America; Hernando de Soto is credited with bringing the first 13 hogs to the New World in 1525.

-American “city” hams and “country” hams: “City” hams are processed in a wet cure or brine and typically smoked, not aged. “Country” hams are dry-cured and aged, producing a stronger flavor that is saltier and drier.

-On the Apollo 13 mission, the crew managed to create a functioning CO2 filter out of duct tape and glazed ham.

-Due to a Civil War surrender agreement, Virginia Baked Ham was given that name to insult the residents of Virginia.

-Chicago artist Dwight Kalb made a statue of Madonna from 180 pounds of ham.

For more information about hams please visit

 

S. Wallace Edwards and Sons

Cooking Issues

FoodReference.com 

National Ham Council

Heritage Pork Taste Chart

Pork Breed Histories and Heritage Pork Taste Chart

TasteChartPork

Berkshire [Fatty] smooth and creamy flavor

Berkshire pork is elegant, luscious and smooth. The meat boasts a round and buttery flavor that melts on the tongue.

Red Wattle [Fatty] flavorful, earthy, minerally, bold

Red Wattle meat is charmingly inconsistent and can be earthy, vegetal and herbaceous with a hint of cinnamon. Its expressive porky flavor is concentrated and bold.

Duroc [Lean] clean, mild flavor, lean

Duroc meat is clean and crisp. Its taste and texture are polished and easy on the palate. Duroc pork is a standard, not to fatty, not too strong pig.

Old Spot [Very Fatty] milky, nice marbling and fat ratio

Old Spot has the creamiest taste of any of the pig breeds. The Old Spot tastes like a tour of the fruit orchard where they famously grazed in old England!

Tamworth [Very Lean] balanced flavor, sweet, very lean

Tamworth is the leanest of the pork breeds that we sell, but still has incredible tenderness and flavor. It is rootsy like the woods it ranges on and has a clean finish.

We had a great time taste testing these breeds and hope we have come up with some words that truly describe the characteristics of the pork. We would love to hear your thoughts!!! Please send us your taste comments to info@HeritageFoodsUSA.com so that we can add your words to the list!

Taste the difference with one of our breed variety packs!

 

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