A holiday meal isn't complete without a ham.
In my Southern family, no holiday is complete without pork. We start each new year with a traditional "good luck" meal of pork chops, black-eyed peas, and greens. On Easter, we skip the lamb in favor of a Smithfield Spiral Ham, glazed with brown sugar and crowned with pineapple rings. Our Fourth of July barbecue is pit-cooked pulled pork, served with crunchy red cole slaw and hush puppies. But the best swine of all is saved for Thanksgiving and Christmas, when my mother's baby brother slow bakes a fresh ham.
Compared to the cured and pre-cooked hams we all know and love, Uncle Mike's Magic Ham tastes like a different animal entirely. The meat is so tender it falls off the bone in buttery flakes that melt in your mouth. The flavor is pure pork, unadulterated by smoke or brine.
In an attempt to recreate the heavenly ham of my youth for Bay Area friends, I discovered that raw, fresh hams are harder to come by than the ubiquitous cured and cooked grocery store varieties. Fortunately, high-quality, fresh ham can be had—for a price. In addition, it's easy to find locally made, fully cooked artisan hams that will cure you of any craving for mass-produced "commodity" versions.
Compared to beef, lamb and fish, pork is some of the least expensive protein available. Traditional grocery stores sell commodity ham for as little as $1.50 per pound. On the other hand, if you're concerned about the living conditions of the animals, or the way the meat is processed, you can expect to pay $8.00 or more per pound. You can also expect to be glad you did, once you taste the difference. The locally available artisan hams listed here are worth every extra penny.
Belcampo's Organic Smoked Ham
Belcampo's boneless smoked ham with maple bourbon glaze
(Courtesy of Belcampo)
This holiday season, Belcampo Meat Company will be offering organic, pasture-raised smoked ham from their own animal-welfare approved farm and USDA-inspected butchery. This allows them to control every step of the ham's journey from piglet to plate. "From day one on Belcampo Farms, our hogs are fed organic, non-GMO grain and have access to abundant and delicious forage," says Anya Fernald, Belcampo co-founder and CEO. "Our ham contains no artificial ingredients or added colors and is minimally processed."
Belcampo's smoked holiday hams are boneless and weigh two-and-a-half to three pounds. "My favorite ham preparation is roasted and glazed," she says.
Where to buy it:
- Belcampo Meat Co: 1998 Polk St. (Nob Hill), 415-660-5573, belcampo.com
- Marin Country Mart: 2405 Larkspur Landing, Bldg. 4 (Larkspur), 415-448-5810
- Town & Country Village: 855 El Camino Real, #161 (Palo Alto), 650-561-3492
Price: $17.99 per pound