The Best Ever, Same As Always, Cured, Smoked, Aged Country Ham

Nancy Newsom Mahaffey, Colonel Newsom's Hams, Princeton, Kentucky

Nancy Newsom Mahaffey, Colonel Newsom's Hams, Princeton, Kentucky

The house smells like eau de smokehouse, thanks to some country ham seasoning chunks that are slowly flavoring a cooker of black-eyed peas. The chunks come from the finest, tastiest, slowest, best country ham provider I've discovered: Colonel Bill Newsom's Aged Country Ham in Princeton, Kentucky. The business started in 1917, and although the Colonel is no longer with us, his proven method for salt and sugar-curing, smoking, and dry-aging hams has not changed.

Nancy Newsom Mahaffey, granddaughter of the founder, preserves the slow, correct, no-nitrate way of ham production. Borrowing from a book title that praises the Newsom hams, we can call the resulting flavor "Pig Perfect." Nancy Mahaffey serves as the happy evangelist for her family's way of curing hams, and to be around her is to catch the spirit. Nancy is so perfectly Kentucky: cheerful, fun, funny, self-deprecating, capable, kind, energetic, and 100 percent on purpose about country ham and other real Kentucky foods.

In the photos above, Nancy, in black, joins Kathy Cary, chef/owner of Lilly's, the celebrated Louisville restaurant, at a farm-to-fork dinner the Sierra Club sponsored in 2007. Since that time accolades and honors for Colonel Newsom's ham continue to pour in. Recently New York Times food writer Christine Muhlke praised Colonel Newsom's, along with Scott Hams in Greenville (also good, but saltier). And a Colonel Newsom ham now hangs in a ham museum in Aracena, Spain.

And lucky you! Country ham ships well, and Nancy Mahaffey has set up an online ordering system that works. Or you can call and place your order by telephone: 270-365-2482. If you order before this year's supply runs out -- and it will -- you can have your own stash of Colonel Newsom's fine ham. If you like, you can order the ham already cooked. I advise this, because cooking a country ham can baffle the uninitiated.

Look all around the website and you will see that Colonel Newsom offers more than one kind of ham. There's "Preacher Ham" (smoky and less salty), prosciutto, and a limited number of free range country hams, along with smoked bacon, smoked sausage, and all you can imagine to go with them. If you like ham for the holidays, now is a good time to order for holiday gifts and for your own household.

Enjoy sharing the incomparable taste of a true Kentucky wonder. And of course it always tastes better when you share.

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The world is coming to visit central Kentucky this year for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. To help our visitors know more about Kentucky's food and food ways, Savoring Kentucky is rolling out 116 Savory Kentucky Bites, one for each of the 100 days before WEG begins, and 16 for the days during WEG, September 25 - October 10. Today's Savory Bite is number 95.

116 World EQ Game Postrona