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Country Ham for Christmas Dinner

My wife and her father believe the Christmas meal requires a country ham. Each year, I procure and prepare one. Most years, I'll boil it and slice it. Maybe this year, I'll add some hay, based on Fergus Henderson's techniques.

A special meal requires a special ham. Two years ago, I posted a similar thread and wanted to bring it up on the new Southeast board. Who makes country ham the old way?


So far, the contenders are A.B. Vannoy in Western NC, Felt's Packing in VA, and Benton's Ham's. This year, I'll most likely choose A.B. Vannoy, since I like their story. Any other good ham curers out there in the Southeast?

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  1. I have had slices of the vannoy and I like it. Not to salty but great flavor. THey sell it at my local farmers market in biscuit slices

    1. I like Johnston County Hams in Smithfield,NC. Just a short hop away for you. JCH has a shop on 301 Business. I've never been disappointed.

      1. Hello,

        I have just procured my fourth Ham from the kind folks at A.B. Vannoy and I don't think you can do any better.. As they say, it's made with three things: Sugar, Salt, & time (NO chemicals).. They get my vote..

        Good luck!

        1. If you are anywhere near Winston-Salem, NC and you don't know about this place, get in your car tomorrow morning and go to Ronnie's Country Store on N. Cherry St. downtown. Here's a link (sorry it's a pdf, but it's a good read. Be sure to scroll down to read the second article, too):


          2 Replies
          1. re: arbyunc

            Ronnie's is an awesome place. They sell W.G. White & Co country hams from Mocksville, NC. Made right and tastes right.

            1. re: Bluemold

              ^ Yep, Ronnie's was W.G. White Grocery for years (the building still bears the White name). Ronnie bought it in the mid-90's and changed the name, but not much else.

          2. Do you want a sugar cured ham? Garden & Gun magazine had a gorgeous article in their latest issue on Country Hams in the South. Benton's was mentioned in the article, but I was intrigued by the folks using Berkshires and making proscuitto! Here's the link http://virginiatraditions.com/assets/...

            1. You can try Benton's Ham's at Lucky 32 in Cary. The deviled eggs would give you the best sample of the ham.

              Lucky 32
              7307 Tryon Rd, Cary, NC 27518

              1. I always order anything that features pork from Allen Benton. Benton's country hams are outstanding.

                13 Replies
                1. re: Edward Tyson

                  I bought a ham from A.B. Vannoy. I think it will work out, though it's not as salty as I expected. I bought a ham from Loveless a few years ago. It was so salty that the dinners reported waking in the middle of night dying of thirst. I'm going to brine it for a week and then hang it for another week to try to get the ham where I want it.

                  Next year, I'll try Benton's for sure or maybe I'll cure my own ham. I recently made killer bacon from a Cane Creek belly.

                  1. re: Tom from Raleigh


                    Baked Vannoy's ham is the best. Granny used to soak hers in milk before baking.... not sure what it did, but it was wonderful!

                    1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                      I'm just curious, are you saying you're going to brine an already cured ham? Usually we just soak them in water, so will you be using salt water instead? Usually the reason to soak is to remove salt...

                      1. re: billyjack

                        I know it sounds crazy, but I am brining an already cured ham. Ordinarily, a cured ham wouldn't take a brine but from what I've read, the vacuum sealing process opens up the cells, so they'll take in the cure. I don't see much downside to it. If it doesn't become any saltier, I'm no worse off. I'll brine it for a week and then hang it for a week.
                        You're right, it's usually standard practice to soak a ham in water or milk to get some of the salt out. Last year, my ham wasn't salty enough. For most audiences, the ham I bought would be just fine, but my wife and her dad like country ham to be really salty....

                        1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                          Thanks. If you think about it, report the result!

                          1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                            Go down to the Raleigh farmer's market and get a ham from Nahunta Pork Center.

                            From my experience, hams made in the east will be saltier than those from the west. A Nahunta ham should make your wife and her dad very happy.

                            1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                              Sounds like you might be over thinking this ham thing just a bit but what do I know, I'm just an old country boy.

                              1. re: Bluemold

                                Amen to that.

                                Hey bluemold, did you all ever bake a cured ham? I'm just curious. We never did this in my family. I hear of alot of folks doing this so I know it's somewhat common, we just never did it. Another thing we never did was soak or boil a ham to remove salt. We always just sliced it, tossed it in a frying pan, and ate it as is.

                                1. re: JayL

                                  I'm with you. I've baked a couple over the years. Plain with no special preparation. I still prefer it sliced 1/4 inch and fried over low heat to just warm it through. My mother thought country ham should be soaked in plain water, overnight changing the water a couple of times to make it less salty. Honestly I could never taste the difference.

                                  1. re: Bluemold

                                    we did both. sliced thin and broiled or pan fried were for breakfast. Soaked and baked were for dinner

                                2. re: Bluemold

                                  I'm not overthinking it. This is just the excuse I made up to experiment with a new technique.

                                  1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                                    A good, aged, quality ham should survive about anything.

                                3. re: Tom from Raleigh

                                  I grew up in rural North Carolina, and I actually don't remember ever having what I to this day call "deli ham" (anything that wasn't a country ham prepared in some way) until I was like 14 years old and we were vacationing in another state.

                                  Typically we just cooked a country ham for those occasions where you want to serve cold ham (on thin biscuits at church dinners, pot lucks, picnics, or large family gatherings). We did nothing to it, we just baked it.

                                  For a "sweet" baked ham in those days, my family also soaked the ham in a big pot overnight before we baked it, and after any mold had been trimmed off the exterior we would cut deep slices in the fat and the children got to stick in cloves while a grown-up smeared on a thick glaze made of substances that could include (but rarely had more than a few) brown sugar, butter, molasses, pepper, assorted herbs or spices (like rosemary, or mace), peanut oil, more salt (which always struck me as kinda "huh"?), dr.pepper, ketchup or tomato paste, and who knows what.

                                  At my grandmother's house, inevitably after baking a ham or a turkey, they were relegated to the (unheated) dining room for a couple of days before the actual meal, and you could be scolded just for going to look at one -- the penalty for snitching from one was so dastardly it couldn't be spoken, but was accepted by us younger folk as being worse than having a dog eat your fingers.

                                  To this day there is no better ham to my eye or my tongue than a country ham, sliced razor thin and eaten with a hot biscuit and some red-eye gravy.

                          2. I recently bought some of the biscuit-slice packages sold by AB Vannoy, and I find the ham to be most of what you'd want in a traditional country ham. It has excellent flavor and texture, and it is plenty salty without salt being the dominant characteristic of what you're eating.

                            I initially thought the slices were a bit thick, but the texture was tender enough to allow the thickness to be toothsome without being tough.

                            If I have any criticism at all, it's that in the biscuit-slice packages the ham is fairly lean, and therefore I can't trim off any extra ham fat to melt to make enough red-eye gravy without adding butter to the pan after I take the ham out. I strongly suspect the primary reason for this is the modern pigs they use which are ultra-lean. If this ham was from a more traditional pig, it would be all things to all ham eaters.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: fussycouple

                              If you know your butcher you ca ask for ham gravy slices. In other words don't trim the fat. I have used a little lard to supplement lean slices. Never tried butter.

                            2. I will try it for sure. Love Christmas dishes so much! :)