Holiday Gifts: Johnston Country Hams

What do chefs have in their kitchens that the rest of us don’t?

Plenty. Getting your hands on what they have will mean you’ll cook and eat better.

This holiday season, start with one of their ingredients: ham.

More specifically, Johnston Country Ham. Curemaster’s Reserve Ham.

The curemaster, Rufus Brown, sent a sample of his dry-cured ham and bacon to Super Chef. He sells directly to restaurants, including: Per Se, Corton, Charlie Trotter’s, Michael Mina, Craft and the Besh Restuarant Group‘s August, La Provence, Lüke, Besh Steak, Domenica and The American Sector. But now, his ham, bacon, and cured shoulder are also available for purchase by non-chefs.

The meat comes from heirloom Mangalitsa pigs raised by Heath Putnam Farms. According to the company:

The pigs are finished on expensive grains like barley and wheat, giving the fat a light and clean taste. They are also raised extra old and heavy, making them taste more flavorful than typical American pigs.

This is ham to eat like you would prosciutto, draped over a autumn fig, savored with a glass of wine that will compliment the creamy fat and luscious meat. Fry the bacon and its balance of salty and sweet emerges. It is an intense bacon that will be excellent wrapped around a partridge or paired with eggs for Thanksgiving morning.

The company quotes John Besh: “… it has everything to do with the entire process, the barley-based diet, the pristine conditions the pigs are raised in, the time-honored seam butchery and the curemasters who are the true masters of their craft. Just one look at the velvety soft fat of the cured fatback, which truly does melt in your mouth, and you’ll begin to understand why the bacon and hams set the benchmark for other artisans to follow.” John knows his hams, and in fact, raises Mangalitsa pigs on his own farm as well.

If your idea of Thanksgiving dinner is a traditionally meal of classic dishes – comfort food – that evokes the cooking of the Pilgrims – or at least your grandmother – how do you improve and update things a bit?

Just add ham.

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