La Tienda in the Press
Garden & Gun - January 01, 2011
The New Frontier of Country HamHow a third-generation ham master in Virginia took a cue from old-world Europe and reinvented the South’s most humble pork product
In 1991, a Virginia chef named Jimmy Sneed gave a seven-pound Wigwam country ham to a globe-trotting hairstylist. Sneed thought the ham would make a distinctive house gift for his friend, who had been invited to spend the holidays at the Aspen home of Rafaella De Laurentiis, daughter of the renowned film producer Dino De Laurentiis. A Southern delicacy, the Wigwam had been lovingly dry-cured and smoked by S. Wallace Edwards & Sons, a revered third-generation company across the James River from Jamestown. Unbeknownst to Sneed, the ham came with cooking instructions: Soak overnight, add fresh water, simmer eight hours, remove skin, trim fat, glaze with brown sugar, and bake for thirty minutes at three hundred degrees. The Wigwam, which is especially long with a boomerang curve at the knuckle, wouldn’t fit in De Laurentiis’s biggest pot. So the houseguest drove to a hardware store, bought a saw, cut the hock off, and simmered the ham for a day, flooding the posh villa with the reek of boiled salt pork. To Sneed, though, the odor was merely evidence of a sacrilege: boiling away the nuanced flavors and textures painstakingly achieved only after months of salt-pampering, smoking, and patience. You might as well heat up a skillet and scramble caviar.