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Genuine heritage ham with full fat & skin?

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I have been having dreams about the hams my mother served in the 60's and 70's that she purchased from a butcher in the LA Farmer's Market. They were, at the time, just very high quality full hams with skin that she would put on a super-low temperature oven overnight, and the next day we would pull off the hard skin (which we would then roast on high heat, making fantastic crackilings!) to find insanely tender, fatty, utterly gorgeous ham underneath. Pure carnivorous heaven...exquisite.

Well, as we all know, modern pork is lean, dry and boring. Modern ham is salty and dry or watery and boring. They have bred all the goodness out of modern pigs.

I keep hearing about heritage pork, and I've had a few chops that were good, but a proper ham is a serious investment, and I don't want to be disappointed. Is it possible to get the kind of ham I describe, which, as I say, was nothing more exotic than simply a high-quality ham 30 years ago. Now it's the stuff of fond and impossible dreams.

I'll invite you over to have some if you can tell me where to find it!

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  1. I love country ham, but the sweet ham you describe can also be fabulous. Snake River Farms produces a well-made ham that's a bit dry to my taste, even when baked to no more than 150 degrees or so. Niman Ranch also sells good hams -- and their advertising people seem to be familiar with your thinking (http://www.nimanranch.com/pork.aspx) -- but it might fall a bit short as the subject "of fond and impossible dreams"! Both SRF and Niman Ranch are available in good stores around Los Angeles.

    Incidentally, Mother's, the great New Orleans po' boy shop, sells their wonderfully fatty and moist black-crusted ham half or whole. I don't know if they ship or if the great flavor and crust survive UPS, but you might give them a call. It's delicious stuff when you're sitting at a table there on Poydras (at Tchoupitoulas). See: mothersrestaurant.net.

    1. stoid, look over the hams from a variety of traditional purveyors, some fairly large scale and many small, family-run scale, on southernfoodsconnection.com A number of the sources don't use any nitrates at all. I tasted ham from one of them at a slow food event and it was the only american ham I've had that compares to old world stuff (factory bred/raised hogs never considered for the better euro hams).