Back in January when a fire broke out in the processing facility of the S. Wallace Smokehouse in Surry, Virginia, the first question on everyone’s minds was, of course, "Is everyone OK?" (Thank goodness, the answer was yes—no one was harmed.) The second—"What happened to the ham?"—had an answer that was much more grim. The legendary Edwards Virginia Ham company lost the building in the devastating blaze, and the future of the company was uncertain. For over 75 years, the family-owned and operated business produced some of the finest hams and bacon on the planet—as well as the very best gift for any meat lover. Suddenly, save for a stock of about 14,000 country hams that had been stored offsite in another warehouse, there was no more Edwards product left. Even that had to be re-labeled to include the different processing plant number, and perhaps worst of all—save for a few four-ounce packages of slices, there was no more Surryano ham.
Surryano is the stuff of cultish devotion among meat connoisseurs, and for good reason. It was conceived as an American rival to classic cured European meats (oh, say, Serrano ham?). It is crafted from heritage Berkshire pigs, pasture-raised and peanut-fed to develop a suitable quantity of fat marbling. It is hand-cured, hickory-smoked, and aged for 400 days to develop its distinctive, smoky, fatty, earthy, heavenly taste. It is also not available until July 10, 2017.
So you cannot give your beloved meat fanatic a Surryano ham this holiday season—or one of Edwards’ signature 10-12 month aged Wigwam hams (they’ll be available on October 2, 2017). But you can sustain the company—and keep palates whet—with a gift of Edwards products in the meantime.
Consider a gift pack of uncooked country ham slices and sweet potato biscuits ($45) or a smokehouse sampler of 12 ounces each of uncooked country ham, hickory-smoked country bacon and sausage ($52). Should your carnivorous gift recipient happen to be a ham purist, Edwards offers “A Tale of Two Hams” ($88)—a dry salt-cured, boneless petite ham and a cooked boneless smoked sweet ham, both with wildly different flavor experiences. (What you’re really giving here is an excuse for a ham party.) And if your meat-eating pal doesn’t dig on swine, Edwards also sells whole smoked turkeys ($87.55) or a ridiculously great and ever-so-brunch-friendly apple date caramel cake ($54).
The flavor of Surryano may be but a memory for the moment, but helping a business like this stay afloat in the leaner times will leave an awfully great taste in your mouth.
All products available at edwardsvaham.com
A few other meaty suggestions:
The Original Bacon Kit
Dig getting your hands all porky? The team from 7th West Charcuterie has put together everything you need to cure bacon in the comfort of your own kitchen, with or without a smoker. The kit includes a curing bag, pink curing salt, premium maple sugar, a thermometer and an instruction kit—enough to make five pounds of bacon. (You supply the pork belly.)
The Original Bacon Kit, $19.99, baconkit.com
Excalibur Four-Tray Dehydrator
You might not think that you need a dehydrator, but try drying out some Spam just once (yes—Spam jerky), and you’ll be hooked. It works brilliantly for all manner of meats, not to mention granola-friendly fruits and so much more. Tack on a 15" Jerky Blaster ($15 from cabelas.com), because then you’ll get a note from the lucky recipient thanking you for a jerky blaster.
Excalibur Four-Tray Dehydrator, $129.99, excaliburdehydrator.com
Sagra Jamon Holder
If you’re going to go whole hog—or at least whole ham leg—you’re going to need a jamon holder. This gorgeous hardwood and stainless steel tool doesn’t just hold your pork in place while you slice it—each one is made with help from people with disabilities, and the purchase of each holder will preserve 10 square feet of rainforest biodiversity. Feel good, eat even better.
Sagra Jamon Holder, $99.95, tienda.com