Tag Archives: ham

In Search of the Perfect Ham

In my first blog post, I mentioned an aged country ham from southern Virginia. I was referring to the sublime Surryano Ham by Edwards Virginia Smokehouse. The name is a pun on the Serrano hams of Spain and the smokehouse’s location in Surry, Virginia, only a stone’s throw from the origin of the famed (and now mass-produced) Smithfield Hams.

This hickory-smoked ham is designed to be sliced thin and eaten raw like prosciutto or jamón. But the Surryano is even smokier even than the Südtiroler Speck (Speck Alto Adige) that we carry regularly. Despite the reputation that American cured meats are inferior to their European counterparts, chefs across the nation agree that this ham rivals any other prosciutto. Furthermore, Edwards Virginia Smokehouse embodies what we so value about Italian cuisine: attention to locality and quality. Edwards uses locally raised heritage breed hogs, as Italians have done for centuries, to create products that Americans have been making for centuries.

The famous Surryano Ham.
The famous Surryano Ham.

Now comes the sad part: in mid-January, Edwards Virginia Smokehouse burned down, losing all of its inventory. The Surryano Ham, which must be aged for two years, will not return for a while.

Here at Via Umbria, I originally wanted to carry an American ham as a point of comparison to our Italian prosciutto crudos. I began digging thorugh laods of ham literature, so looking for a ham that could live up to Surryano’s legacy. I found a few promising producers and reached out for samples. The first, Colonel Bill Newsom’s Aged Kentucky Country Hams, responded the same day with a personal call from the owner, Nancy Newsom Mahaffey. The Newsom family has been making country hams commercially for several generations, and the family tradition goes even further back.

Nancy's Preacher Ham.
Nancy’s Preacher Ham.

I decided on two hams, both of which are now in our case at Via Umbria. The BBQ Ham is a cooked ham which Nancy calls a “Preacher Ham,” because you only want the best for the preacher on Sundays! It’s a smoky deli ham that’s great solo and would send you to the moon in a sandwich. We also stocked up on prosciutto. This is a dry cured country ham, cold-smoked, and aged breathing the open air of Kentucky! Its not quite as in-your-face smoky as the Surryano, but still amazing. We’re talking a complex balance of sweet and salty, of smoky and porky. It’s a testament to what American curing traditions can achieve—and I’m not the only one who thinks so. The “Preacher Ham” is the first (and only) American ham on display in Spain’s Museo del JamónNancy was the first American and the first woman to be invited to the World Congress of Dry Cured Hams. This “prosciutto” is really something to behold, and I’m really excited to work directly with a producer with such high attention to tradition and quality.


Scott Weiss

A complex balance Read more

In my first blog post, I mentioned an aged country ham from southern Virginia. I was referring to the sublime Surryano Ham ...

The Basics on Ham

Did you know that Prosciutto is often called “The King of Hams”?

Of all the charcuterie items you’ve ever heard of, ham is the one you’re probably most familiar with, sometimes probably even without even knowing it! In fact, it is possibly the one truly international cured meat, with different styles ranging from the prosciuttos of Italy to the jamons of Spain to the country hams of North America all the way to the Jinhua ham of China (one that is unfortunately forbidden from being imported).

Coming from the hind leg of the hog, ham can be placed in two basic categories: cooked or raw, or as we say in Italian cotto o crudo. But raw is, in this case, a misnomer. These are the cured hams that are arguably the most delicious way to enjoy the ham. Here at Via Umbria, we are proud to carry six different styles of ham. Two imported prosciutto crudos from the towns of Parma and San Daniele in Italy, after which they are named. On top of that, we are excited to introduce an amazing prosciutto crudo made here in Virginia, by a family business that has, and continues, to make Tuscan-style charcuterie in Tuscany: Terra di Siena. Right along with these are two smoked hams, a speck from Alto Adige/Südtirol in the very north of Italy and an aged country ham from southside Virginia. They vary in the woods they are smoked with but both are excellent sliced thin as with any prosciutto. And to round this out, we have a phenomenal prosciutto cotto that would make for an excellent sandwich. This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hams, and we are excited to keep on digging deeper in to the world of cured meats.

This is just the beginning. To learn more, and indulge in our delicious deli offerings, join Scott, our Salami Swami, at our Meat & Greet event on Wednesday, February 3rd, at 7pm. Nosh like a Norcino on charcuterie and pork-based dishes, and partake in conversation with fellow food lovers. For more information or to book your reservation visit us online or call us at (202) 333-3904.


Scott Weiss
Scott Weiss

Possibly the one truly international cured meat Read more

Of all the charcuterie items you’ve ever heard of, ham is the one you're probably most familiar with, sometimes probably even without even ...