High on the Hog

January 2010
Written By: 
Monica Parcell

Ham: the quintessential course for every holiday table

It’s that time of year when, unless you’re a total Scrooge, the opportunity to eat your weight in ham biscuits presents itself. Which, for many of us, is a high point of the holiday season. We know: They’re always around—at weddings, showers, and other Important Events. But at Thanksgiving and especially Christmas, they’re almost a sacrament, invoking with every bite a sense of comforting nostalgia, as well as providing reliably good eating.

We don’t use the word “sacrament” lightly. There are those for whom a holiday party without a plate of ham biscuits is sacrilege. Fortunately, for every jaded hostess and insatiable foodie, there’s a new ham in town—combining Old South traditions with even older ones from Europe—that will satisfy those who hanker for something slightly different and those who see no need to tinker with perfection.

Hailing from St. Matthews (just outside Columbia), the country prosciutto from Caw Caw Creek Pastured Pork is best sliced paper thin. It’s not as salty, so it can be served on its own like prosciutto or serrano ham from Spain, but the flavors are robust enough to sandwich in a biscuit.

Besides fattening up on organic corn and heirloom grains from neighboring Anson Mills gristmill, the heritage-breed pigs at Caw Caw Creek forage freely under a canopy of red and white oaks, feasting on acorns—just the diet and exercise that gives jamon ibérico de bellota, Spain’s finest cured ham, its nutty flavor profile and mostly monounsaturated fat content.

Owner Emile DeFelice is an Atlanta native, but he spent part of his childhood in Italy, so he came up with something of a cross-cultural approach to cured ham: He seasons each one with brown sugar in good Southern fashion, then cures them for a year using Old World methods. There is one proviso: Caw Caw Creek, whose products carry the Certified Humane Raised and Handled label, sells only whole hams (many of them to some of the best restaurants in the state and throughout the country). But once your guests get a taste of it, one ham should be just enough to last through the holiday season. Come to think of it, a whole ham also makes a fine gift for that someone on your list who has everything—or for whom good ham is nothing short of a gift from the gods (or the Magi, for that matter).

Hog Wild
Country prosciutto is available by mail-order from Caw Caw Creek Pastured Pork. Prices vary. For more information, visit www.cawcawcreek.com, email happyhams@cawcawcreek.com, or call (803) 917-0794.