May 2, 2010
The New York Times
My Old Kentucky Ham
By Christine Muhlke
Webmaster's Note: Aged hams are ever popular on country tables and with gourmet diners. The miracle meat became the subject of an article in a May issue of The New York Times. Several businesses were mentioned as the story took a geographical track, coming out of the north along the coast, the author’s quest started in Tennessee then followed the trek of the pioneers moving through the volunteer state toward Nashville and then north into rural Kentucky's ham country, finishing with one of the nation's smallest ham producers, but acknowledged to cure some of the country's best hams.
…As Tennessee's hills and hollows softened into Kentucky's green, horse-dotted vistas (scarred by trees felled by an ice storm), the concept of terror came to life. Driving past humble farmhouses, I imagined the generations of subsistence farmers who salted hog legs every fall so they'd have something to eat later in the year. It's their great-grandchildren's hams we're eating now; they got better every year. Some day, Italians might drive these back roads to explore America's great ham country…
(About our ham)
…We headed east to Colonel Bill Newsom's in Princeton, a pretty town with old brick buildings and a sleepy town square. The sign marking Newsom's Old Mill Store boasts of its heritage and its hams. Inside was a blast from many pasts, from the penny-candy sticks to the bulk seeds for farming. But Nancy Newsom Mahaffey and her Kentucky hams are clearly the draw.
Colonel Bill's daughter has taken the mantle with authority. Warm, chatty and opinionated, “the Ham Lady” held court at the counter, talking about a ham conference she was attending in Spain and Michael Pollan's new book with a couple who had driven from Lexington to buy nitrate-free bacon. This while also discussing planting conditions with local farmers and making sure everyone got in their sandwich order at the two-man counter. If you told any of these people that guys with pig tattoos waited outside in the cold to taste this ham in New York City, they'd take away your cobbler-in-a-jar. It was hard to imagine that anything from this timeless store could make its way to a noisy restaurant on Second Avenue and 13th Street. But what a delicious journey to make — in either direction.
I ate my BBQ “preacher ham” sandwich in the Trail of Tears Commemorative Park around the corner, sipping a root beer next to a waterfall that was used as an encampment when this was the American frontier. Now it's another kind of frontier, and just as salty.
Newsom's Old Mill Store Through-the-looking-glass country store selling some of the country's best ham. 208 East Main Street, Princeton, Ky., 270-365-2482