Country Ham with Heritage Breed Pork

I have made a few hams in my day, but none of them came out nearly as great as this last one. We followed the step by step recipe from the University of Kentucky and the results were stunning! You can find the recipe by clicking here. We let this beauty age for just over 18 months before cutting into it. We were waiting for the perfect time to have our first ceremonial slicing and we found it. Our Italian friend Luca is one of the best cheesemakers in the area and was over our house for dinner with some other long time friends and we had to get into it! Luca brought a pile of his cheeses from Wolf Meadow Farm, his cheese company. The meat and cheese board was stacked with deliciousness. He spoke of his childhood memories of rubbing bread on the hams and salami curing in his basements back in Campobasso, Italy. He said the fat on this ham had that same nostalgic character as the hams of his childhood. He went on to tell us that he was not allowed to touch the hams growing up, until special holidays, so they would try to rub the flavor into the bread and not get caught by his mother! 

The quality of the pork is the heart and soul of the flavor, so we went with a beautiful custom cut leg from Snug Valley farm in East Hardwick, Vermont. The breed of pork was 100% pure bred Berkshire. The color of the meat was a lush, dark burgundy. The fat was like cream and the ratio between the 2 were perfect. 

In the winter, their pigs live in one of two winter pig barns that have open-air sides and one barn has large outdoor loafing areas for each group. They use deep bedded pack with first cut hay to keep them warm and allow them to eat grass throughout the winter.

They also never use antibiotics and they use a feed natural grain and their own hay, supplementing with brewers grain, organic veggies and organic bread, when available.

When we were in Spain, we literally ate dozens and dozens of different dishes, all over the south. One dish we would get everywhere we went, was the regional Jamòn! From the coastal cities of Malaga & Mijas, to the mountain villages of Ronda, we would start our dinner with a plate of expertly sliced ham. The ham was always sliced to order and served as is. They would offer 3 types based on age. 8 month, 12 month & 18 month. They also offered different breeds like Iberico (black hoof) & the most coveted, acorn fed Iberico bellota. I loved them all, but there was an umami thing going on with the 18 month that was really special and the texture was perfect. We wanted to have that experience at our fingertips whenever we wanted and we were ready to wait it out through curing our own leg. 

It took way more skill than I imagined to cut it perfectly thin, making sure to get a good fat to meat ratio with each slice! 

It took way more skill than I imagined to cut it perfectly thin, making sure to get a good fat to meat ratio with each slice! 

I will only give the credit to our basement temperature & humidity, because it just so happened to be clean and consistent throughout the aging process. The rest of the credit goes to the quality of the snug valley pork and the excellent, detailed, step by step recipe from the University of Kentucky. After all, Kentucky ham is some of the best in the states. Salt ratio and before & after weights are key to figuring out when your ham is ready to eat. 

The finished product served as is. So damn delicious!

The finished product served as is. So damn delicious!

Country Ham with Heritage Breed Pork

I have made a few hams in my day, but none of them came out nearly as great as this last one. We followed the step by step recipe from the University of Kentucky and the results were stunning! You can find the recipe by clicking here. We let this beauty age for just over 18 months before cutting into it. We were waiting for the perfect time to have our first ceremonial slicing and we found it. Our Italian friend Luca is one of the best cheesemakers in the area and was over our house for dinner with some other long time friends and we had to get into it! Luca brought a pile of his cheeses from Wolf Meadow Farm, his cheese company. The meat and cheese board was stacked with deliciousness. He spoke of his childhood memories of rubbing bread on the hams and salami curing in his basements back in Campobasso, Italy. He said the fat on this ham had that same nostalgic character as the hams of his childhood. He went on to tell us that he was not allowed to touch the hams growing up, until special holidays, so they would try to rub the flavor into the bread and not get caught by his mother! 

The quality of the pork is the heart and soul of the flavor, so we went with a beautiful custom cut leg from Snug Valley farm in East Hardwick, Vermont. The breed of pork was 100% pure bred Berkshire. The color of the meat was a lush, dark burgundy. The fat was like cream and the ratio between the 2 were perfect. 

In the winter, their pigs live in one of two winter pig barns that have open-air sides and one barn has large outdoor loafing areas for each group. They use deep bedded pack with first cut hay to keep them warm and allow them to eat grass throughout the winter.

They also never use antibiotics and they use a feed natural grain and their own hay, supplementing with brewers grain, organic veggies and organic bread, when available.

When we were in Spain, we literally ate dozens and dozens of different dishes, all over the south. One dish we would get everywhere we went, was the regional Jamòn! From the coastal cities of Malaga & Mijas, to the mountain villages of Ronda, we would start our dinner with a plate of expertly sliced ham. The ham was always sliced to order and served as is. They would offer 3 types based on age. 8 month, 12 month & 18 month. They also offered different breeds like Iberico (black hoof) & the most coveted, acorn fed Iberico bellota. I loved them all, but there was an umami thing going on with the 18 month that was really special and the texture was perfect. We wanted to have that experience at our fingertips whenever we wanted and we were ready to wait it out through curing our own leg. 

It took way more skill than I imagined to cut it perfectly thin, making sure to get a good fat to meat ratio with each slice! 

It took way more skill than I imagined to cut it perfectly thin, making sure to get a good fat to meat ratio with each slice! 

I will only give the credit to our basement temperature & humidity, because it just so happened to be clean and consistent throughout the aging process. The rest of the credit goes to the quality of the snug valley pork and the excellent, detailed, step by step recipe from the University of Kentucky. After all, Kentucky ham is some of the best in the states. Salt ratio and before & after weights are key to figuring out when your ham is ready to eat. 

The finished product served as is. So damn delicious!

The finished product served as is. So damn delicious!

Thanksgiving Shoot with Edible NH

We are so very blessed to have amazing people and opportunities in our lives. One of those opportunities has been shooting for a Thanksgiving article with Edible New Hampshire magazine. I was lucky enough to write the article thanks to the magazines amazing editor Cait! We welcomed the idea and challenge to host a small group of talented people in our home, to photograph and talk about the food on a Sunday morning. Weeks prior we brainstormed on menu ideas and days prior we recipe tested and stayed up late with cider and bourbon fueling our creativity.

The day was finally here to shoot for the magazine and we were so excited! It was the first big meal and the first (of many) full photography sessions to take place in our new kitchen & dining room. The table was styled the night before (we knew the lack of sleep would get the better of us come six a.m when it was time to put the turkey breast in the oven) and we were so happy with how it came out!

Our menu consisted of some of the Thanksgiving staples of turkey, pumpkin and stuffing, but not in the way that most are used to. When we started thinking about our menu and the entire concept of the Edible shoot we were faced with "What do we do and how do we make it different?". When it came down to it, we decided that the "First Thanksgiving" has been overdone but there are some aspects of this that we enjoy. 

There is something special about Thanksgiving in New England. The first Thanksgiving occurred not all that far from where we live. As a child I took field trips to Plimoth Plantation, which for all you non-New Englanders is a beautiful museum set up outdoors within a recreated early settlers village. If there is any place that one would want to try to recreate the first Thanksgiving it would be here in New England with similar resources available. We did of course focus on locality and seasonality when creating our menu. The vast majority of the meal was foraged or grown nearby or grown in our own garden.

Cait, her friend Brianna and Jenn (of Jenn Bakos photography) showed up around 9am to start the shoot. We had JUST pulled the turkey from the oven and the table-scape was on it's way to being finished with final touches. I channeled my inner Joanna Gaines late the night before folding napkins and placing the décor to my liking.

Turkey 2 ways

Our turkey was prepared two ways. The first was a more traditional roast, however we only roasted the breast so that we could add both variety and assure that the legs/thighs and the breast each got the cook time that they needed. More often than not, the breast is over done and the thighs end up perfect, so we accept this and douse our meat in gravy just to make it taste better. These parts of the bird need different cook times, so why not do turkey two ways?! The thighs and legs were made into a roulade which ended up being slightly more tricky than we had anticipated, but only for a lack of the right plastic wrap. We ended up having to make a very large sheet out of various pieces, which, is as much of a disaster as you think! So, we highly suggest getting your hands on 18" plastic wrap if possible-you can always find it on Amazon! After that though it was smooth sailing! As far as cooking ahead goes, this menu makes the day of easy, and in my opinion enjoyable. There is some prep work involved to get to that point, BUT if you throw on some good music and are in good company you'll be done in no time!

Turkey Roulade Recipe

 

Stuffing is frigging delicious. I just had to state that. I am a sucker for StoveTop (don't hate me) but it didn't seem fitting for such an important meal. We are totally enamored with a variety Flint corn (Floriani Red) after seeing it's huge stalks at a barn dinner we attended a few years ago. Since then, we've used it in many dishes, and we thought this would be the perfect use for it! We went ahead and made the corn bread the day before and let it sit out over night. We happened to have some sour dough bread that we had dried out and set aside (so that made our lives super easy) but you could always grab a loaf from a local bakery a few days ahead, dice it and let it dry out if you don't make your own. The Floriani Red Flint corn we used has more bite than you may be used to in a "typical" cornbread, but we truly love the depth of flavor and texture! We are HUGE fans of mushrooms in this household, and used some rehydrated locally foraged beauties in this recipe which only added to its depth and flavor.

Cornbread Recipe

Stuffing Recipe

Being Fall and living in New England we HAD to include pumpkin somewhere-no pumpkin spice lattes in this house (ugh). I know it may be the most popular seasonal coffee drink and candle scent ever, but I just can't do it. Pumpkin Pie is a hit in this house, as it is everywhere this time of year. For our pumpkin incorporation this year we recreated an idea I stumbled upon while researching Thanksgiving.  I couldn't find a recipe, but did read briefly about the concept of cooking an Indian Pudding of sorts over coals (mentioned by William Bradford). We incorporated the pumpkin, flint corn and molasses and crossed our fingers that it would work! Luckily for us (and you) it did!!! It was so amazing that the kids were eating it by the bowl full for days after. By no means are we knocking the traditional pie, but if you want to try something different this is a conversation starter. Served inside the pumpkin it is both beautiful and functional (one less dish!). 

We omitted the cranberry sauce, but replaced it visually on the tablescape with beet and autumn olive chutney which was sourced entirely in our neighborhood. I looked like a complete creep with garden shears running through our neighbors yard, but behind their shed I clipped away to add autumn olives to the table and the dish. It added the most stunning pop of color to the table, and it was delicious. 

Entertaining friends and family is something that we love to do more than anything. To open our home to people we love and spend time at the table with a delicious meal, is amazing. This past year has been a whirlwind of change, from completely gutting the first floor of our home (while living in it with 3 kids) to Patrick now being home normal hours of the day and having full weekends off. We now have more time together to do the things we love. Documenting these moments in our lives is such a gratifying experience and there is nothing that we would rather do.

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours! Dig in!