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The Appeal of Country Ham

Chef Ryan Smith cures meat in the basement beneath Empire State South. Three flights below the reclaimed wood and dim lights that dominate the Midtown restaurant’s farmhouse-chic interior is a climate-controlled menagerie of sorghum sausages, fat mortadellas, and other charcuterie hanging from delicate lengths of string. Most striking are the country hams, whose aged skins have developed the rich patina of antique wood furniture. Some hams have just begun curing this month, stuffed in a cooler and encrusted with salt. A few others will continue to age for as long as two years. It isn’t often that a chef focuses so much care and attention on an item that won’t appear on the menu until 2014.

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