Virginia hams remain a favorite for holiday tables
December 20, 2012
RICHMOND—If you’re a history buff, nothing beats the holiday tradition of a Virginia ham.
“A Virginia ham or a country ham is always a popular gift,” said Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “In addition to being a local favorite, they are shipped all around the world each year.”
Holidays are the top-selling period for a Virginia ham, Banks said, in part because it’s been a tradition for decades. As Southerners moved to industrialized urban areas generations ago, they maintained ties to their rural roots, especially during the holidays. “So serving a country-style ham has survived over the decades, and a renewed interest in ham and pork products among celebrity chefs has only spread their popularity.”
New marketing trends for country ham include selling it in small slices so it easily can be used as an appetizer, on biscuits or in salads.
According to Smithfield Foods records, the first recorded transaction of a Smithfield ham occurred in 1779. Mallory Todd sailed a shipload of salted hams to the West Indies, sold them for a cannon and a hat, and returned home to Smithfield to build a home and start the first commercial salted-ham business.
“Some of our best-tasting pork ends up in hams,” Banks said. “Just like hundreds of years ago, they have a long shelf life and are valued as a unique accompaniment to a main dish.”
By Virginia law, only a ham cured within the town of Smithfield’s corporate limits can be called a Smithfield ham. It differs from other salt-cured hams in that it must be aged for a minimum of six months, while other country-style hams can be produced in fewer than 90 days.
Contact Banks at 804-290-1114 or Norm Hyde, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1146.