Princeton, Ky., Sept. 15 — Ham producer Nancy Newsom Mahaffey, owner and operator of Col. Newsom’s Aged Kentucky Hams, was among the food experts chosen to participate in the 6th annual Southern Foodways Symposium planned for Oxford, Miss., Oct. 2-5.
Known nationally as “the Ham Lady,” Mahaffey took her country ham product to the event. The aged ham is produced from a curing process that has been in her family since about 1796.
Newsom’s ham is marketed in Princeton at Newsom’s Old Mill Store, by mail order and on the internet at www.newsomscountryham.com.
The commercial ham business was started by her father, Col. Bill Newsom, as a division of the H.C. Newsom Store, established in 1917. Newsom’s ham attracted the attenion of Chef James Beard and was a staple at the James Beard Culinary Institute.
The Newsom’s small town family grocery store was lost in a fire in 1987 and reopened by Mahaffey in a building next door as Newsom’s Old Mill Store, a working country store.
Mahaffey was commissioned as a Kentucky Colonel in her own right in 2002 because of her business achievements and contributions to Kentucky. The Colonel maintains a traditional craft with her artisan ability in the art of curing aged hams — the curing of her Col. Newsom's Kentucky Aged Ham.
“The nature of our cure involves an age-old process to produce a handcrafted product,” said Mahaffey. Col. Newsom’s ham is unique in the marketplace today because there is no nitrate or nitrite used in the cure.
Col. Newsom’s Aged Ham represents what is considered today to be one of our nation’s “lost arts” — the true artifact — a naturally cured aged ham. Mahaffey, who is one of just a handful women ham producers in the nation, said that the cure is unlike most commercialized processes which shortcut the time and aging process.
“It’s not just the closest we can come. If you are looking for authentic country ham, you have found it,” Mahaffey said.
The symposium at which Mahaffey appeared on Saturday evening was presented by the Southern Foodways Alliance, which is led by Director John T. Edge. Coordinator of the symposium was Mary Beth Lassiter. The event was held on the University of Mississippi campus at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture.
Mahaffey was among four U.S. ham producers assembled by Chef Jim Gerhardt to present the “Jack Daniel’s Country Ham Summit.” The presentation was Saturday evening, Oct. 4.
In the Photo Above: Col. Nancy Newsom Mahaffey (center) is pictured with Chef Jim Gerhardt (left) at the ham summit, where dozens of patrons tasted Newsom's Aged Ham and learned about the differences in aging and production methods.