Saturday, March 11, 2006

Ham 69

Where do you buy Smithfield-style Country Ham in the San Francisco Bay Area?

photograph picture smithfield country ham from boulettes larder in san francisco

A year and two days ago when I posted this, I could not find Smithfield Ham, or anything like it, anywhere. Today I was at Boulette's Larder enquiring after Jersey milk. [No, they didn't have it and I can't find it for sale anywhere, hmmph, because I wanted to make some clotted cream, cos I am sick of not being able to buy it in America]. Anyway, back to the ham.

Not only do I miss English clotted cream (there I go again), I hanker after a spot of decent ham from time to time too. In Boulette's Larder I spied a ham behind the counter that looked like just the ticket. None of that watery square-sliced rubbish, and no smokeyness either. I bought some for a lunchtime sandwich. It was a little, tiny bit too salty for me. But still it was a joy after so long in the ham wilderness. Too much salt is nowhere near as bad a) square shaped ham, b) smoked ham, c) watery ham, d) processed ham, e) Spam.

The ham at Boulette's Larder is WG White's country ham from North Carolina. It is not true 'Smithfield ham', but it's a better ham than most I've come across around here.

Bay Area Ham Sandwich Resources:
Rustic Bun | from Acme
Unsalted butter | from Straus | at Cowgirl Creamery
Hot Mustard | Voigt Family Secret Recipe
Boulette's | Larder
The Ferry Building | Market Place
Saturday Morning | Farmers Market

Archive Alert! A year on I am still buy a dozen Marin Sun Farm eggs every week or two. Marin Sun Farms suffered devastating losses in recent floods, please give them your support.

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Ham 69


  • At 11/3/06 19:28, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sam ---------Chinatown!! Or May Wah on Clement Street. Honest to God. Try it. (Then make some biscuits.)

  • At 11/3/06 19:35, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    PS Sam: look for pork stores in Chinatown (the ones with half-pigs hanging inside where you can get -- my mouth is watering -- jacked-off chunks of just-roasted pork (with skin).

    Chinese dishes call for the same type of ham and so many retailers supply them with real Smithfield. Ask haddock.

  • At 11/3/06 19:39, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    PS Sam: look for pork stores in Chinatown (the ones with half-pigs hanging inside where you can get -- my mouth is watering -- hacked-off chunks of just-roasted pork (with skin).

    Chinese dishes call for the same type of ham and so many retailers supply them with real Smithfield. Ask haddock.

  • At 11/3/06 19:44, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ha! Trying to edit the "jacked-off" mention. Please help to neaten (ahem) this up to "hacked-off" and blame it on a Luddite who is right now dealing with glorious Monty Pythonisms emanating from her television set.

    PS Good luck on Jersey milk. My father insisted on it, we always lived where it was available from one dairy or another and -- oh, God, the ice cream. Knew that before clotted cream.

  • At 12/3/06 00:06, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'll second Kudzu's jacking off there. I see alleged Smithfield ham at New May Wah all the time. Or wait about a year and I should have some for you. We just got a pig Wednesday and I'm doing one of the foreleg country style. Unfortunately when they gambreled the hog they severed the feet on bothe the hind legs so I've got those brining for a fresh ham

  • At 12/3/06 00:11, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Sam--

    I'm sure you've searched all over for your Jersey milk but have you looked at Spring Hill/Petaluma Creamery( or from Organic Pastures, which I think uses some Jersey cows ( I haven't been to Rainbow Grocery for a while but they said they carry Organic Pastures products. Good luck and the ham looks great!

  • At 12/3/06 00:24, Blogger ZaZa said…

    Sam, I've made clotted cream a couple times with regular whipping cream. I don't suppose it has quite the sweetness of that made with Jersey milk, but it's good.

    As for the Smithfield hame being salty, they really don't use it for sandwiches in the region where it's made. They do, however, put it in biscuits with gravy, which is heavy but a tasty treat on occasion.

    Those Southerners do like their salt. ;+)

  • At 12/3/06 03:10, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Looks like good ham from here, it is so hard to find the good stuff

  • At 12/3/06 09:43, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sorry to keep stealing space -- but I have to differ with b'gina. Very, very thin slices of Smithfield ham are used in biscuits (as little sandwiches) or on tea-style sandwiches with butter and perhaps a little mustard. Paper-thin slices are also used with egg salad on thinly sliced bread. Of course it is used for flavor in many ways, but it is a classic sandwich ingredient, too.

  • At 12/3/06 15:32, Blogger Lady Amalthea said…

    This ham looks delicious, though I admit I, too, can be very sensitive to salt. But anything is better than those slimy slices from the supermarket, all cut to the same exact size and shape. Yuck!

  • At 12/3/06 16:52, Blogger Dive said…

    Yes, yes.

    As everyone has said already, try the Chinese markets.

    Ranch 99 in Daly City definitely has it.

    However, Smithfield is just a brand name. What you want to look for is "country-style" ham.

    I'd suggest finding other country-style hams...

    ...since Smithfield has an awful (let me emphasize, AWFUL) reputation when it comes to treatment of their workers.

    Yes, there are actually horror stories:

    Yes, all corporations are evil..blah, blah, blah, but now that you know Smithfield isn't the only producer of country-style ham, why not shop around?


  • At 12/3/06 18:02, Blogger Chris said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 12/3/06 18:09, Blogger Chris said…

    Just the other day I noticed that Sunset Super, at 25th and Irving, has genuine Smithfield hams hanging high on the west wall of the meat department. I think they're Gwaltney's but don't recall exactly. Lucky Pork on Mission used to have them, but I seem to remember that the new owners dropped them.

    Smithfield hams are NOT the same as the typical 'country' hams. They're cured and aged for significantly longer than are typical 'country' hams.

    They're not like the ones I had as a child, though: In the '60s or '70s Virginia changed the law that had required 'Smithfield' labelled hams to be made only from hogs fed on peanuts. Oh well.

  • At 12/3/06 22:17, Blogger Sam said…

    thanks for all the tips everyone. I still find the American ham possibilities quite confusing, and have to wonrder why none of them are like english ham.

    oh well, will keep on journeying, and with all your help will get to the end of the puzzle sooner.


  • At 12/3/06 22:18, Blogger Sam said…

    ps kudzu - I am unable to edit comments, only delete them for good and I kind of like your little faux pas, which kind of fits in with the daft title I gave the post.

  • At 13/3/06 13:06, Blogger Dive said…

    Dear Chris (and Sam and everybody),

    I wasn't totally convinced with your distinction between Smithfield and regular ol' country-style I asked an expert.

    This is what Mary Beth over at Southern Foodways Alliance ( had to say:


    Some of the Smithfield Hams are considered "country-style" hams (by Smithfield), but artisanal producers are going to offer you the best country ham. And artisanal producers will offer a drier, saltier ham. Though the term "country ham" may be used in both cases, I would argue that Smithfield is a pale shade of the real thing. Smithfield hams are only cured 6 mo-1 year, I think, while artisanal producers may cure as long as 2 years.

    If you're looking for good country ham, I recommend Alan Benton of Benton's Smoky Mountain Hams in Maryville, TN. It'll be the best ham you've ever had.

    He doesn't have a Web site, but call 423-442-5003 and tell him that Mary Beth Lasseter of the Southern Foodways Alliance recommended that you order from him. His ham is the best I've ever eaten...and I eat a lot in my job.


    Mary Beth"

    Hope this helps.


  • At 13/3/06 14:39, Blogger Dive said…

    Actually, it looks like the person Mary Beth mentions does have a website...


  • At 13/3/06 21:36, Blogger Sam said…

    k - thanks for all the info, been loving your new site - superb!

    Have you WG white version i mentioned in the post?

    I can't really be buying a whole ham by mail. That wouldnt work. I am way too fickle!

  • At 14/3/06 09:25, Blogger MizD said…

    Hey Sam!

    Just yesterday at work I unpacked a shipment from British Wholesale Imports that included jars of English Clotted Cream, so I know it can be found stateside.

    If you can't track any down where you are and the need gets desperate, drop me a line and maybe I can figure out how to ship the stuff. :-)

  • At 14/3/06 09:44, Blogger Sam said…

    Mrs D - I know I can get the jarred stuff, but to me its not quite right - its not fresh, it's preserved, and it doesn't satisfy my clotted cream needs. To me, cream does not come in a jar. I would call it an imitation of the real thing. The real thing is fresh and thick and yellow with a buttery crust you can only dream about. Which is why I wanted to see if I could make it. I guess the search now will be for a real jersey milk supply. Thanks for the kind offer though.
    I am sure you will enjoy it anyway - I mean how bad can cream really be? Any type of cream?


  • At 14/3/06 17:24, Blogger MizD said…

    Ah, okay. I've only ever seen it in a jar, so I assumed that's how one always buys it. (What do I know... I'm like a midwestern kid who's only ever seen fish if it's got breading and is in the shape of a stick. :-))

    I'd sample the jar version clotted cream myself, but it would probably send me to the hospital. Me and cream, you know...

  • At 14/3/06 22:46, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    Have you tried Spring Hill/Petaluma Creamery( for fresh Jersey milk?

  • At 21/3/06 14:34, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I looked at your link to the definition of clotted cream. It's quite similar to what I do every other week to make yogurt. At rainbow grocery, you can get quart and half-gallon jugs of raw milk. The Sonoma and Mendocino coast cool and foggy - perfect for dairy cattle.

    I take it home and heat it up to 180 degrees F on a double boiler for 5-10 minutes before cooling it down for yogurt. Your link to clotted cream says to do the same for an hour. You'll have to experiment some with your own stove. I found if I set my stove to low and leave the top off of the double boiler, the temperature will not stay in the 180 - 190 range.

    You might be able to make the best clotted cream you've had in years!

    Maybe not.

    It'd be worth a few batches to find out, I'm sure.

  • At 21/3/06 15:16, Blogger Sam said…

    absolutely - thank you for the tip Micky!!!!!!

    i think the one advantage of my crappy old electric oven is that it has a warm setting much more controllable than gas, so maybe i can just egt this to work.

    ooooh i am so excited at the thought!

  • At 1/4/06 20:41, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    English ham is the best. Your post and the replies offered great info (we're in San Jose), but we're still left a bit wanting. Is part of the problem that meats cannot be shipped from abroad to the U.S.? We know that for ages English cheddar could not be shipped to the U.S. except under very special circumstances, and that's why we have had to eat horrible orange rubbery American cheddar forever. Nowadays, however, some decent cheddar is getting in. Trader Joe's sells an amazingly decent English coastal cheddar for much cheaper than Whole Foods sells Neal's Yard cheddars. But good ham still eludes us.


  • At 15/9/06 22:04, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Benton's Smoky Mountain Country Hams sells what you're looking in a ham. They have no-smoke hams available, along with domestic prosciutto, and your typical smoked country hams. I think that they're one of the best country hams available on the market. Be sure to soak the ham for 2-3 days while changing the water every 12 hours. You don't have to refrigerate the ham while you're doing this, just put it in a cooler in the shade outside. Their web address is

  • At 4/12/06 05:17, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    if you can't find a decent country ham in san francisco try traditional curing methods with two varieties 4-6month age and 10-18 month age. the longer the age the more intense the flavor.

  • At 7/12/06 22:11, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You can get Jersey milk (raw) from Claravale farm:

    Check health food stores or Whole Foods for it... or send the farmer an e-mail and ask where he delivers in SF.

    Good luck!

  • At 7/12/06 22:27, Blogger Sam said…

    thanks very much anon- i sometimes buy the raw milk but i wasn't certain it was jersey or what brand it is.

  • At 7/10/07 17:38, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You might try Early's Country Store ham (online) or Clifty Farms.

    Both are based in Tennessee...home of the best country ham made anywhere.

    i'm an Tennessee expat and order it when i feel homesick from those two places

  • At 20/3/08 07:32, Blogger andsewon said…

    I am from Isle of Wight here in VA.
    We used to have the 'real deal' till the home folks got to old to smoke & cure the hams, no more hogs on the farm. We buy hams from several companies,all local including Smithfield/Gwaltney,
    also Red Eye & Felts from South Hampton county or Edwards out of Surry.
    All are on the web. I soaked my ham yesterday till this AM when I put it on to boil in ham cooker.


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