Of all of the human activities that bring us pleasure, nothing tops eating. Most of us indulge three or more times a day, and rather than decreasing with age, this passion just keeps getting better and better. By the time we reach maturity, if ever we really do, we have developed strong opinions about our favorite foods, and are want to share these with our family and friends. This genre of blog posts is my attempt to share my food preferences with anyone who might have even the least interest in the subject.
I don’t even suggest that these products, places to eat and recipes are the best, but they are certainly my favorites at this point in life. I suspect I will be hearing from many of you with other suggestions, and I’m open for new culinary adventures. Here is one of my all time favorites.
CLIFTY FARMS COUNTRY MEATS
I have to confess that I’ve come only recently to a real appreciation of country cured ham. As most of you know by now, I grew up in the Mississippi Delta, and for the most part, we were bacon and sausage folks. I’m sure that there were folks who cured hams in the family smoke house, but when my grandfather killed a hog, we made sausage and bacon. Sure we would have crackling’s and salt meat, but mainly it was sausage.
Clista lived for a number of years in middle Tennessee, and her brother Bill lives in Columbia. Country cured ham is a staple in that part of the world, and Clifty Farms is considered the gold standard. It took me awhile to develop the ability to tell the subtle differences in various brands of country ham, and I can best describe it as the lingering after taste. Most brands that we have tried all have an initial burst of flavor, but Clifty Farms follows through with a final flair that literally zings on your taste buds.
I believe Clifty Farms has a superior flavor, but the real test comes when making redeye gravy. There are as many variations on the recipe for good redeye gravy as there are country cooks. Some make a light rue, some include sugar, and most will use some coffee, but the single over-riding ingredient is the quality of the country ham. Clifty Farms has the deep rich flavor that can stand up to the coffee and still impart the zesty ham taste. Other brands that we have tried just couldn’t compete.
Clifty Farms Country Meats was founded by Truman Murphey in 1954. Truman was a native of Henry County Tennessee and grew up with his extended family killing their own hogs and curing their own meat. The curing process was necessary before the wide spread availability of refrigeration, and folks in Western Tennessee prided themselves on the intense flavor of their smoked meats. The curing process varied from home to home, but all followed the same general form.
After the hogs were butchered, the first step was to coat the meat with a layer of salt mixed with a binder to hold it to the meat. Many folks used molasses or cane sugar, and each family had their own secret ingredients to enhance the process. Usually five to eight pounds of salt would be used for every hundred pounds of meat. Once the meat had been salted, it was placed in the spring house to “take the salt,” a process that lasted from killing time in the fall to early spring.
About the time the fruit trees began to bloom, the salted ham was thoroughly washed and hung in the smoke house. The fire pit was filled with a combination of fruit woods, corn cobs and other combustibles, again chosen for their particular aroma. The hams were smoked for seven to ten days, and everyone had their own theory about how long to smoke before the hams began to dry out.
When Truman Murphey started smoking hams in 1954, he was careful to preserve his family’s salt rub and smoking formulas. Today, his son Dan runs the company, and the Murphey’s have successfully adapted the old formulas to modern production equipment. Clifty Farm’s hams have the same long-lasting flavor today that they did in 1954.
Clifty Farms also prepares and serves other meat products, and all that I have tried have been superior. This is especially true of their version of sliced salt pork, which cooks up crispy and firm. If you want to try a top notch streak-o-lean, Clifty Farms is a good choice.
For more information go to www.cliftyfarm.com
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Marlene just told me that I could have a country ham biscuit at McDonalds tomorrow morning. That is worth getting out of bed for!
Red eye gravy is awesome! A short true story. My dad worked for the great and sovereign state of” Miss -sippi”and was traveling in the delta in his first air conditioned car. He picked up a black man to give him a ride to Hollandale. The a.c. was on. He asked to be let out so he could go home and kill the hogs. This was in July. Boo
I had a piece of country ham with a leftover Popeyes biscuit this A.M. I always dump a splash of coffee in the skillet immediately after pulling the ham out and make a flash redeye gravy with the “fond” from the ham.
Usually when I first bite into a piece of country ham I think of Al Capp’s “Hammus Alabamus”