Long-Aged “Prosciutto-Style” Ham
When we first started buying whole heritage pigs for our restaurant accounts and home chefs we didn’t know that hams make up 30% of the body weight of the pig. When we looked at our profit and loss statement, we realized that unless we found a great outlet for hams, we would fail as a nose-to-tail business, especially considering that we pay our farmers at least four times the commodity rate for pork, a price determined by a group of old men in Chicago that we think is too low.
In a nose-to-tail operation, the ham is a cut that almost always needs value added to not lose money overall. Curing hams and turning ham into sausage are ways of moving hams for a fair price. Unfortunately, our business relationships did not include the supermarkets or delis where so many of the nation’s hams are sold! The solution? Find buyers who had their own outlets to sell hams!
Over the past decade, our greatest buyer of hams by far has been Sam Edwards of S. Wallace Edwards and Sons, a company that started in 1926. Edwards purchases 250 pieces of ham totaling over 6250lbs every week, operating 40 weeks of the year under the name Surry-ano. We are so fortunate to have a relationship with the Edwards family, not only because it’s nice to walk to the bank with a big check, but also because Sam is producing one of the greatest American long-aged hams ever made on these shores. Sam uses the traditional American method of curing hams, which involves the added step of smoking. As a dedicated proponent of heritage breeds, pasture-raised systems, and slow curing methods, Sam has moved American gastronomy forward through his curehouse.
We are also fortunate to work with chef and curemaster Cesare Casella who cures hams in the traditional Italian style (which does not involve smoking) under the company name Casella’s Salumi Speciali, in New York. Cesare, who holds a Michelin Star for his Italian trattoria in Tuscany, started his long-aged ham line (he already had a very successful salumi line) after the recent fire at the S. Wallace Edwards plant. The fire temporarily put Edwards out of the curing business and forced Heritage Foods to find an emergency outlet for all those hams! Surprisingly, the fire has led to the creation of the best Italian prosciutto outside Italy.
Heritage Foods USA is also proud to partner with other great American curemasters with businesses and traditions that can be traced back decades and centuries. These ham producers are household names in the South and produce products that are inextricably linked with our collective Southern food tradition. These producers are Ronnie Broadbent (Kuttawa, KY), Al Benton (Madisonville, TN) and Nancy Newsome (Princeton, KY). These artisans now offer pasture-raised lines of Berkshire and Red Wattle long-aged hams that are among the most delicious you will ever try.
The Heritage Foods USA line of prosciutto-style hams is always growing and evolving. For now, enjoy our sliced and whole Surry-ano line. In the fall and winter we will add our first pastured rare breed hams from Broadbent Hams, Colonel Newsom’s Aged Kentucky Country Ham and Benton’s Smokey Mountain Country Hams. And next Spring Casella’s Salumi Speciali will debut for the first time in the U.S.
We hope more Americans will consider leaving some of our long-aged hams on their kitchen counters year round! Long-aged hams do not need to be refrigerated as all the moisture is removed during the curing process. They can also be used in any recipe that calls for ham. Even a little sliver will bring extreme pleasure and satisfy any hunger craving!
Sadly, in the United States, USDA regulations have slowed the development of America’s curing industry to a crawl, leaving little room for a great salumi tradition to even begin on these shores. Luckily, there are exceptions. On the West Coast, Fra Mani makes very good salumi as does Salumeria Bieliese on the East Coast. The Pacific Northwest boasts the excellent Olympia Provisions amongst others. Despite the restrictions facing the industry, American curing is progressing.
Heritage Foods USA does not cure meat; we simply sell raw ingredients to artisan curemasters, so it was very hard for us to break into the salumi market with a good product that we could call our own. That is until we partnered with our old friend Cesare Casella! Chef Casella won a Michelin star for his family trattoria in Tuscany, Vipore, and came to America to open two legendary restaurants in New York City, Beppe and Marema.
Today, Cesare has dedicated himself to the pursuit of curing meat in the Italian, more specifically Tuscan, tradition and style. The charcuterie he produces has quickly become known as some of the greatest that America has to offer. Cesare uses pasture-raised heritage breeds like Red Wattle, Berkshire, and Gloucestershire Old Spot, all sourced from Heritage Foods USA, in the production of his cured meats.
Cesare learned the art of curing from Tuscan butchers who traveled the countryside before winter to help families prepare for the long food-scarce period before spring. His salumi never overdo it on flavor and they are exactly like the salumi you can find in Tuscany. Cesare has perfected two of Tuscany’s most classic salami for us: Finocchiella and Salametto Piccante. Each of Cesare’s salame is perfectly balanced in flavor and texture.
The original everyman’s food, salami are great to have on hand for delicious snacks, last minute entertaining, or thoughtful wine pairings.
It’s amazing that paté is not consumed more in America! After all, it’s delicious and Americans love spreading any kind of food. A paste of meat is a new format to many, but perhaps nothing in the meat world is more satisfying. It’s really a good option when you decide not to have meat as a centerpiece for the main course!
In French cookery, paté is a paste or spread made of puréed or finely chopped liver, meat, fish, game, etc., served as an hors d’oeuvre. Paté, in French, literally means paste and comes from the Old French word for paste.
We have our two favorite patés featured on our site year round.
Heritage Paté – This rustic paté is made with bacon and onion, creating a delicious full flavor profile. Patés are perfect for spreading on toast or fresh bread of any sort and also function as an excellent appetizer when served with pickles or cured meats.
Our signature paté is made by Nello of Nello’s Specialty Meats, one of Pennsylvania’s great curemasters. Nello’s is a community fixture and processes and cures for dozens of farms local to him, mostly in the German tradition.
The Berkshire pork Nello uses is elegant, luscious, and smooth. The meat boasts a round and buttery flavor that melts on the tongue. Berkshire pigs are pasture-raised and antibiotic-free.
American Braunschweiger is a type of liverwurst. The USDA requires that the product contains a minimum of 30% liver to be called Braunschweiger. Added seasonings often include salt, white pepper, and onion powder or chopped onion.
Our version, produced by Paradise Locker Meats in Trimble, Missouri has liver, bacon, maple sugar, onion powder, mustard, and garlic. It is flavorful and irresistible! Everyone will love this sweet and savory pate.