1940s Archive

Food Flashes

Originally Published April 1949

Bring on the ham, a ham super-elegant, pearly pink the meat, and richly perfect in the mouth, with the taste of the smoke in each juicy fiber. These are hams of corn-fed hogs from the corn belt country, given the long sherry cure, smoke-washed free of all impurities. The hams cook while they smoke, while they absorb the deep-hearted wood flavor. Comes the scoring of the fat, the quilting with cloves, each nailhead set in true diamond pattern; comes the glazing, and into the oven. Now frequent sherry bastings to make the crust shine. These hams are ready-to-eat as they come to you, averaging 10 to 16 pounds, price $1.50 a pound postpaid, wrapped in Cello-phane with a gay overwrap, prepared by an old Pennsylvania Dutch formula on Hickory Valley Farm, Little Kunkle-town, Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.

The same farm has the White Holland smoked turkeys, smoked just as we like them, that is, most delicately, slow gold on the outside, the breast meat white with the palest pink tinting, whole smoked birds $1.75 a pound postpaid, average weight 10 to 20 pounds.

Best thing traveling from their farm is the hickory-smoked sausage, delicately spiced 4 pounds stuffed into a casing, price $4.60. Want something different in bacon? Then order the lean pork loin, the Canadian-style bacon, dry-cured, hickory-smoked, all meat, no waste, 4 to 6 pounds, $1.75 a pound postpaid. Slab bacon, too, this like the bacon you remember in the prewar years, lean, tasting of hickory smoke, $12 for the 10-pound piece, or 5 pounds for $6.25. The meats are packaged in the gayest of gift boxes, decorated with Pennsylvania Dutch figures and motifs, with a hand-drawn picture of the old farmhouse and barn. One October afternoon we drove from New York City into the Pennsylvania Dutch country to see the farm plant where these good things are made. It is the last word in modern equipment, and as to cleanliness, no conscientious Dutch housewife could do better.

Something different in the way of an Easter ham is an Old-South ham cured by a recipe ten generations old, cured and cooked to sell mail-order by Mary Watkins McLaughlin, Halifax, Virginia. Mary can trace the origin of her recipe back to 1730, to William Morton Watkins of Virginia, who received from George II of England a grant of land on which he built the family home. Here Mary lives. Here ten generations of the Watkinses have lived, raising the razorbacks and giving the hams the special cure by the recipe William brought to the colonies out of England.

It's now Mary's father's farm, and Dad raises the “pine-rooters,” as the lean, bacon-type hog is locally known. It's Mary who attend to each detail of the curing, the cooking, the marketing.

The curing is done in the back-yard smokehouse, which has stood just where it is since Civil War years.

It's a long, slow job getting a ham from hog to table, by Mary's way of doing. The salt-and pepper rub, that's the first trick, a do-it-by-hand job, once a day for three weeks. After that the hams are ready for bagging, and off they go to hand in the hickory-chip smoke for a period of weeks; then comes the ten-month air cure.

Hams are boned and cooked only on order, and the cooking is a ritual. They are soaked overnight, then put into cold water, this brought to a boil, and simmered slowly two hours. At this point the ham is removed from the water, dried, wrapped in yeast dough, and put to bake for six hours in a slow oven. Then it's crack off the dough, pour off the juice, take off the skin. The ham is returned to the oven and let bake golden-brown. In the cooking as well as in the curing no flavoring is used, no sugar, no molasses, not a whit of spicing. The result is a ham of an incredibly mellow, sweet flavor. The color of the meat is distinctive, darker than the usual ham, and the aroma more pungent. Here is ham unlike anything we have seen in the market, and not to be used like the regular commercials. This should be sliced paper-thin and served as a cocktail appetizer. It can be used as a main course, but serve small portions, for the ham is rich, rich!

Hams arrive wrapped in Cellophane, boxed, postpaid, ready to serve with instructions for the carving. Weight 10 pounds or over, priced $2 the pound—no bone, no waste. The finished ham weighs less than half the weight of green ham before curing. Address Mary Watkins McLaughlin, Halifax, Virginia.

One of the whitest, the finest, and best flavored water-ground corn meals we ever made into spoon bread come from Byrd Mills, Louisa, Virginia. The main portion of this mill was built in 1747, and there is stands today, the hand-hewn beams solid as when young Patrick Henry brought corn to be ground from his fahter's nearby plantation. Water power turns of great wheel at sedate pace. There is no heating the meal, as in mills which operate at high speed.

The mill offers the white corn meal, also yellow corn meal and crakced wheat, each, 5 pounds 82 cents. There is whole-wheat flour and a buckwheat flour, 5 pounds $1.05, Old-fashioned flour and natural flour, 5 pounds 95 cents. Send checks, please, no C.O.D. shipping, minimum order $1.

Little Finland has foodstuffs starting our way. First item here the Finlandia candies made by Karl Fazer in his Helsinki factory. Before the war this firm turned out 2,000 varieties that won first prizes in expositions all around Europe. The crown box carries the prize selection, a beauty of a box, its white cover gold-lettered, the Imperial British Crown the center decoration, the right for its use extended by Edward VII. Candies in this box are préed fruits, not jellies as we know them here. Pear for one, made of the Dutchess pear, of distinctive flavor, which grows only in Europe. Other kinds are sgrawberry, orange, lemon, in all 10 flavors, all made of the pulp of the fruit like a concentrated essence. Karl Fazer sends the dragées, these famous the world over. One is of ground hazelnut, other kinds are orange, lemon, and mint. Our favorite of the many Fazer sweets is the mint cream, this piece shaped like a maple leaf and chocolate-coated.

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