Definitive Kentucky Country Ham Buying Guide

 

First, you’ve got to follow the law: For a ham to be called country, it has to have lost 18% of it’s green weight, and must be comprised of at least 4% salt. Anyone who’s eaten authentic country ham can attest to the saltiness of the finished meat. Keep a glass of water handy when you’re eating.

Dozens of smokehouses line the western part of Kentucky, known colloquially as the “ham belt.” This region is also known as the mutton belt by folks who prefer aged sheep to the meat of hogs. There are a handful of producers east of I-75 but they are few and far between.

I’m planning a trip to the Bluegrass State soon and will be sweeping across the Commonwealth to round up some country hams for consumption back here in Austin. After a week of research these are my findings:

1) Colonel Bill Newsom’s Aged Kentucky Country Hams. Princeton, Kentucky, western part of the state. From the website “Newsom’s ham was honored to participate in the 5th World Congress of Dry Cured Hams in Aracena, Spain, in May ’09 and a two-year-old Newsom’s ham was encased for continuing display in the Jamon Museum there… the only ham in the United States of America to be invited.”

Newsom’s was established January 1, 1917, by H.C. Newsom. The business is now into year 96.

208 East Main Street, Princeton, Ky. 42445 … Phone: 270-365-2482  M-F 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CST and Sat. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. CST) … e-mail: newsomsham@yahoo.com

2) Broadbent’s. Kuttawa, Kentucky, western part of the state. Est. 1901. In 2010 a Broadbent ham brought 1.6 million dollars at the big ham auction in Louisville. From the website: On Feb. 27, 1974, the late James Beard wrote in his column, “It was only lately, while in Kentucky, that I became acquainted with these superb hams. There’s a company called Broadbent-Bingham that sells cured and aged country hams. If you visit them, you can also buy extraordinarily good ham hocks, thick ham steaks and hams, all cured the same way. I carried back a cooked ham for Thanksgiving which was much admired by all who tasted it”.

Winning a total of 15 Grand Champion Kentucky State Fair Ham Competitions since 1967, including being named Grand Champion six times since 2004. The American Association of Meat Processors has named Broadbent’s National Grand Champion Winners four of the last five years. 900 lb gorilla of country hams.

257 Mary Blue Road, Kuttawa, Ky. 42055. 1-800-841-2202. www.broadbenthams.com Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

3) Finchville Farms. Halfway between Lexington and Louisville. Est 1947. From the website: “Finchville hams are still cured and processed using the same recipe from 1947. In an age of fast food and artificial preservatives, these country hams are cured with only salt, peppers and brown sugar. All natural ingredients used throughout the centuries to preserve food before refrigeration”

Seen on Food Nation on the Food Network

5157 Taylorsville Rd, Finchville, KY 40022 (502) 834-7952

4) Scott Hams. Western part of the state. Est. 1910. From the website. 16 time national champion ham award. 2009 ham sold for 1.3 million dollars at the big ham auction in Louisville.

1301 Scott Road Greenville, KY 42345. Phone: (270) 338-3402 Phone: 1-800-318-8881
Email: scotthams@muhlon.com Website:  www.scotthams.com  8am till 4:30 Monday thru Friday. 8-noon on Saturday. Closed Sundays.

5) Meacham Country Hams. Western part of the state. Est. 1932. The web page shows this concern to sell a lot more than just ham. They’ve got all manners of bourbon balls, jams, chow chow relishes and what have you in addition to smoked meats.

From the pen of Evelyn Meacham “Not unlike a fine wine, a good country ham can’t be rushed; it needs to age slowly and naturally. In 1932 William Meacham began curing hams for his family and friends using the cure handed down in the Meacham family for generations. When people tasted his ham, the word spread that he had a ham to delight the country ham connoisseur. “

Amen sister. Editor’s note: we are saddened to report that Meacham’s has closed its doors.

705 O’Nan Dyer Road Sturgis Kentucky 42459.  Mon-Friday 8:30-3pm. Open on Saturday during the holiday season. 800-552-3190

6) Father’s Country Hams. Western part of the state. Est 1959 with historical antecedents stretching back to the 1800s. In addition to country hams Father’s also sells 15 different kinds of bacon. Vanilla bourbon bacon? I like mine with salt and pepper but to each his own.

All the meats are dry cured the old fashioned way. Watching a youtube video from the business, I learned that you can take a pack of the cryo-vacced bacon and leave it on a counter for 90 days with no ill effect. That’s a serious cure.

6313 Kentucky 81, Bremen, KY 42325 (270) 525-3554 mon-fri 7am-3pm Sat 8am-noon.

7) Harper’s Country Hams. Western part of the state. Est. 1951. I wrote about Harper’s earlier this year when they had the winning entry in the big ham contest in Louisville. Their ham brought in 350k. A pittance compared to some years but still respectable. A fire destroyed the business in the late 70s but the family fought back and now they’re bigger than ever.Compared to a lot of the other ham producers, Harper’s product line is brief but apparently they’re about to launch a double smoked bacon.

2955 U.S. Hwy. 51 N. Clinton, KY 42031. 1-888-427-7377 Monday-Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m

8) Browning’s Country Hams. Northern part of the state; east of I-75. Est. 1970. The business was sold by the Browning family in 2011 to David Sponcil, and has been moved from Paris, in Central Kentucky, to Dry Ridge. In addition to curing hams, the new Browning’s also churns and produces their own cheeses.

475 Sherman Newtown Road, Dry Ridge, KY 41035 859.948.4426

9) Penn’s Country Hams. Central part of the state. Est 1957. Founded by Donald Penn who used an old time country ham recipe and proceeded to sell the meat out of his general store in Mannsville. Very little information on this business, which to my mind is good. Phone: (270) 465-5065 Email: pennshams@aol.com 8850 Liberty Road, Campbellsville, Kentucky 42718 8am-6pm Mon-Sat

10) Jim David Meats. Western part of the state. Est.1991. They boast of their salads which frightens the country ham lover in me. They also have an enormous line of prepared foods.196 Hodgins Rd Uniontown Ky 42461  (270) 882-4866  6 A.M to 5 P.M Mon-Fri 8A.M to 1 P.M Saturdays

11) Ballance Country Hams. Western part of the state. Est. 1948. Closed 2007.

12) University of Kentucky Butcher Shop. A collaboration between UK’s College of Agriculture and UK Dining Service. Central part of the state.  Est 2013. A brand new butchery that is practicing old school techniques in the heart of Lexington, Kentucky at the University. All butchered animals were grown on Kentucky soil.  Gregg Rentfrow, 859-257-7550. The UK butcher shop is open Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 5 p.m. It’s behind Garrigus Hall, next to the loading dock. Garrigus Hall is on Cooper Drive, near the intersection with South Limestone. http://ukcc.uky.edu/cgi-bin/mapper?maps.391+campus+s=1+m=0+x=07+y=07  Building number 215 on the hotlinked map.

Once you purchase your country ham you’ll have to learn how to cook it. Here are the steps http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2009/11/20/How-To-Breathe-Life-Into-A-Cured-Country-Ham

 

 

About RL Reeves Jr

I'm a writer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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