Kicking the Imported Ham Habit with Virginia’s Surryano Ham
As much as I hate to think of the fuel used to bring delicacies across the world to my plate, some things are worth importing. We gave up Pellegrino a few years ago, I avoid Chilean apples and I tend to favor domestic cheeses (although have yet to find a really great domestic Parmesan-like cheese) but I thought I couldn’t kick the Prosciutto and Seranno ham habit. It’s just too good.
That’s what I said when I hadn’t yet tasted Sam Wallace Edwards III’s Surryano ham.
Surryano ham is a European-style cured ham made from Six-Spotted Berkshire hogs who are pasture-raised without antibiotics or hormones. With a nod to Virginia tradition of setting the hogs free to roam the peanut fields after harvest, the Six-Spotted Berkshire hogs’ diets consist of 2lbs of peanuts per day on top of the natural feed and the pasture they nibble during the day. This fatty dessert makes the ham well-marbled and subtly flavored.
It’s cured with salt, smoked for seven days over hickory logs then hung to dry for 18 months. It’s meant to be served thinly sliced with little fuss. We tried it straight, and melted over pizza in it’s last seconds of cooking. Both incredible. I regretted knowing about the peanut diet before trying the ham; it would have been fun to see if I could have guessed it. There is definitely a deep nutty flavor to the meat, the marbled bits are not annoyingly chewy, and it crisped up nicely under the heat of the pizza oven. True appreciation of this ham comes eating it plain, but after a few bites, I had a goat cheese and fennel pizza calling for something salty and fatty, and so it went.
At $26 for 3/4 pound, it’s not cheap. Like many high-quality artisanal domestic food products, the price starts on the high side. The way to drive it down would perhaps be if more of us kicked our habit of putting our hams on planes. Apparently the savings really start when you compare whole Surryanos to, say, a whole Prosciutto ham. Not something usually on my weekly shopping list, but perhaps I should consider it.
• Find it! Surryano Sliced Dry-Cured Ham, $26 (three 4-oz packages) at Virginia Traditions