The Pork is in the Mail
Garden and Gun
New Soul of the South

A cultural tour of the best mail-order food in the South.

by Fancine Maroukian

When Hogs Fly: A Newsom's aged country ham, delivered to your door

Years ago it was impossible to get your hands on great Souther food unless you actually lived down the road from it. Or maybe you had a relative who loved you enough to bring back some Rendezvous ribs from a trip to Memphis, or if they really loved you, a Newsom's aged country ham from Kentucky. These were foods that you had to travel to enjoy, but now they can travel to you. The easy part is picking up the phone or going online. The hard part is waiting for the mailman.

Newsom’s Aged Country Ham Princeton, Kentucky The Newsom kin have been curing ham since the late 1600s. First settling in coastal Virginia, the family migrated to Kentucky in the late 1700s when tobacco farming depleted the soil and the government was giving out land grants. In those days there were no federal regulations about smoking and curing; everyone did their own. But as times changed and people stopped doing for themselves, Granddaddy took over the town’s grocery store and began selling country hams. Now run by third-generation granddaughter Nancy Newsom Mahaffey, the company uses a curing method passed down through a family will dating back to 1792: hand-rubbed salt-and-brown-sugar seasoning, hand washing, smoking with hickory wood, and ambient curing (instead of climate controlled), which means the curing time depends on the changeable weather. Newsom’s hams, made even more famous when American culinary legend James Beard spread the word in a 1975 American Airlines magazine, are limited in number with each crop, and every whole ham has a numbered certificate to authenticate the product.

September/October 2008

photographer Peter Frank Edwards

(August 12, 2008)