Our ham tastes the way it does because of the pigs, process and people. Please take a moment to learn about each!
At Lady Edison, we source whole hogs exclusively from the North Carolina Natural Hog Growers Association, headed by Jeremiah Jones. The NCNHGA is made up of 19 farmers, all of which are third-party Animal Welfare Approved and certified non-GMO. The oldest farmers in the organization are in their early 80s and many have been farming all their lives. These small family farms promote traditional, sustainable farming practices and a food system that values and respects the whole animal. Lady Edison hogs are a heritage cross of Berkshire, Chester White and Duroc and are 100% pasture-raised, without hog houses, without gestation crates, as some old-timers say “on the ground” in their natural habitat.
In an industry dominated by factory hog farming and plagued by waste, Lady Edison is committed to using all parts of each hog we buy. The hams are used for our Good Food Award-winning, Lady Edison Extra Fancy Country Ham. Shoulders and bellies are used at Sam’s BBQ restaurant The Pig in Chapel Hill. Additional cuts are used for ‘Nduja, Coppa, Salami, Pancetta, Bratwurst, Jowl Bacon, Soppressata and more, sold locally at the renowned Carrboro Farmers’ Market. We also supply retail cuts of loins and ribs to Weaver Street Market and raw cuts to local restaurants, including Dashi in Durham, Panciuto in Hillsborough, Bin54 in Chapel Hill, Mandolin in Raleigh, and many more.
The (Extra Fancy Country Ham Curing) Process
Lady Edison Extra Fancy Country Ham is dry-cured, unsmoked and long-aged, following the old traditions of North Carolina country hams, first cured in rooms that mimic the natural seasons:
- The Winter Room – The first step in the process, hams are salted and stacked in a 34-degree low humidity room for about 10 days. After some of the moisture seeps off, the hams are resalted and restacked and cured for an additional 25 days and the hams take on a more dense consistency.
- The Spring Room – This 50-degree room mimics spring in the South – hams hang here for 90+ days. The salt, which was mostly on the outside of the ham, slowly starts to move to the center, to the bone. The hams continue to lose moisture, proteins are breaking down and the hams begin to develop their unique flavors.
The Summer Room – This room is, as you would expect, warm and humid, where the proteins are broken further down and the ham starts to take on its distinctive umami ‘funk’ and continue to cure. After 60 days the ham is officially shelf-stable.
The Extra Fancy Phase – Lady Edison hams are then wrapped in butcher paper, placed in a net, and hung in an unconditioned room to mature for an additional full year. In the winter, the temperatures in this room can get down into the 40s and in summer, the room will get into the high 80s with constant fluctuations in humidity and temperature.
This additional year of natural peaks and valleys in temperature and humidity is where the hams take on their well-known ‘funk’, the rich flavor and unique character that sets this prize-winning ham apart. This length of ambient aging is unique to Lady Edison’s Extra Fancy Country Hams and allows every ham to develop the rich flavors, aroma, textures and color that can only occur with aging in a less controlled environment. Like with aged cheese; temperature, humidity and time impact each ham differently throughout the process.
Each Lady Edison Extra Fancy Country ham is aged at least two years, many longer.
Sam first connected with third-generation country ham cure master Rufus Brown of Johnston County Hams to hang his first batch of hams. When Rufus closed Johnston County Hams in 2019, Sam moved his hams to Goodnight Brothers in Boone, NC, a third-generation family operation that has been dry curing hams since 1948.
Around this time Sam partnered with David Yourd and Karrie Kimble, the founders of Philosophy Foods, purveyors of fine and artisanal foods, to continue his new tradition of creating long-cured country hams with heritage hogs from small hog farmers in North Carolina.
Through his partnership with Philosophy Foods, Lady Edison Extra Fancy Country Ham is now found at some of the best restaurants and markets across the country, including Momofuku Ssam Bar, Murray’s Cheese Shop, & Sons Ham Bar, Zingerman’s Deli, Lady & Larder and many more.
Click here for a full list of where to find the ham!