From Pine View Farm

Hambone 7

I generally like the area I live in. (Caveat: If there had been a little thing called “jobs” down home, I probably never would have left.)

It is truly deepest suburbia, with big city services readily available, but not too far from a boat ramp. My little corner of suburbia was built up in the ’40s and ’50s, so it’s pretty well settled. What you see is what you get: the traffic isn’t going to get much worse, because it’s already as worse as it can be, but, if you have the patience to nose them out, there are plenty of back roads for getting where you want to go without actually driving on the Conquered Concord Pike.

My house backs up to an abandoned quarry and, then an Office Park, giving the back yard privacy and giving us the comfort that no one’s going to come along and drop a Mickey D’s, or worse, a (Hoick! Ptui!) Walmart behind us.

There is one wart on this idyllic little suburban scene.

You can’t get a Real Ham (TM).

      The kind you have to soak overnight before cooking to leach the salt.
      The kind that you don’t have to refrigerate, because it’s actually been, like, you know, cured (I once had one hanging for four months in my crawl space till I got around to cooking it).
      The kind you have to scrub the mold from before cooking.
      The kind with a hambone.

I’m not talking about those puny Yankee “pre-cooked” attrocities that have to be refrigerated and that, when you cut a slice, the slice flops limply in your hand like a piece of balogna. I was looking at some of them in the store yesterday, and the labels said [BRANDNAME] SUGAR [or hickory or whatever] CURED HAM and water product.

Right away, you know that, if they have to add “product” to the label, folks, it ain’t real. It’s adulterated beyond recognition.

Aside: Indeed, I don’t think people in these parts even understand Real Hams (TM ). Many years ago, I went looking for one in a long-closed Super Fresh. None on display. I rang the little bell. This old guy leans out and I ask him whether he had any country hams. He said, “Sure,” and came back in a minute and held out this ham. Then he pulled it back and asked, “Where are you from?”


“Okay,” he said, and handed me the ham. I have no doubt that someone once bought a country ham from him, took it home, unwrapped it, and brought it back complaining about the mold.

(Full disclosure: Haldas Brothers does carry Real Hams (TM), but only during Eastertide. Other times of the year, they have to be special ordered, minimum order of five.)

Now, the cooling tower town is in slower lower Delaware, and lower Delaware fancies that it has some kind of Southern heritage. So, yesterday, after I finished doing the cooling tower thing, I decided to check out the local grocery stores for Real Hams (TM).

The meat manager at the Super Fresh said he didn’t have any, that for some reason he couldn’t get them this year, and finished with, “I’m going to have to drive to Virginia to pick some up.”

At least he knew what they were.

The meat person at the Save-A-Lot said she though she might have seen one once in Dover, but she wasn’t sure.

There were rumors of a Food Lion, but for some reason I couldn’t find it, even though it was right there. But I’m not sure I wanted to go there anyway.

Someone at the Cooling Tower Place had said he’d seem some in Walmart. Now, I try to avoid Walmart, because I don’t like the way they treat their employees or their suppliers, but I don’t completely blacklist it. I was desparate and it was getting late, so I checked out the local Walmart. Acres of Yankee hams, no Real Hams (TM).

I finally got lucky at the Dover Safeway. The meat manager said, “Sure, over here. . . . Whoops! Where did they go? I think I saw some in the back. Let me check.”

He disappeared into the back, and I fired up Opera Mobile while I waited for him. Five minutes later, he reappeared with a Real Ham (TM):

Country Cured Ham

I’ll start soaking it tonight.



  1. Bill

    December 20, 2007 at 11:00 am

    …and lower Delaware fancies that it has some kind of Southern heritage.

    That’s a joke. Their idea of “Southern heritage” down here is NASCAR, kiss-your-cow music, and flying Confederate flags from their cars/pickups/flagpoles/porches/etc. They don’t really get it…

    Back to hams… In the early 80s, I live in South Burlington (not to be confused with Burlington), Vermont.

    I shared a house in South Burlington with a guy named Mark. Mark grew up in Massachusetts, but I never held that against him. Frank may remember Mark. While living in Vermont, I would smuggle small quantities of Rebel Yell straight bourbon whiskey north across the Mason-Dixon Line when I made trips down south to America. If I remember (and I’m not sure I do), Frank stopped off for a visit one time and Frank, Mark, and I finished off a bottle of Rebel Yell one afternoon – or maybe it finished us off…

    Anyway, Mark worked for a restaurant supply firm. The company gave its employees a real country ham for Christmas one year. Mark’s mother prepared the ham in the usual yankee fashion – cut in half-inch thick slices and boiled (I think). He complained about how terrible it was. Fortunately, Mark’s mother had not defiled the entire ham and he managed to bring the remains to Vermont. I prepared it properly and sliced it so thin you could almost read through the slices. His opinion of real country ham changed after that.

  2. Frank

    December 20, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    As I remember, we killed a bottle of wind AND the bottle of Rebel Yell.

    The next day, we just barely made it to my 4 p. m. train.

  3. Linda

    December 20, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    We are having the ham for Christmas Eve. All of my family is coming over. Now, my family is pure, pure Yankee. I wonder how they will react to the ham. We will know if we see a lot of it left on plates going in the garbage. (I had to acquire a taste for it last year, took a couple of tastings, what can I say, I’m pure Yankee too.)

  4. Karen

    December 21, 2007 at 7:21 am

    A ham with mold on it & it’s proper? I throw cheese away that gets moldy, even though I seem to remember that it can be cut off & the rest of the cheese will be ok. Not sure on that one, though.

    I think I have to vote with Linda. Watch the plates as they go to the sink.

    I think my Yankee heritage is hanging out.

  5. Bill

    December 21, 2007 at 10:20 am

    I throw cheese away that gets moldy…

    Karen, do you eat blue cheese? It’s full of mold. Actually most cheeses have mold either in the rind or throughout the cheese itself. Real cured ham is a natural process unlike the processed/injected city hams. The fungal layer is part of the natural aging and curing process – the way nature intended. Not some brine injected spongy piece of pork meat waved over a wisp of smoke for 15 seconds – yuck!

    Well, if yankees don’t like real country ham, that’s good since. It means more for those of us who truly appreciate it. Yankees probably think pumpkin pie (which is actually butternut squash pie if you use the canned “pumpkin” from the store) is better than sweet potato pie. (Alton Brown’s recipe is very good although I replace the pecans with coconut.)

  6. Karen

    December 22, 2007 at 8:37 am

    I’ve had candied sweet potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, & made sweet potatoe bread, but have never had sweet potatoe pie. Don’t know that I’m quite that brave.

    I’m not a cheese lover, at all. I’ll eat blue cheese salad dressing in the summer. As far as picking up a piece of blue & eating it, no.

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    March 19, 2010 at 3:35 pm

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