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CLAYTON RYE

By Staff | Jan 15, 2016

Since Thanksgiving means turkey, then Christmas and Easter mean ham.

For last month’s Christmas gathering of my wife’s family, it was decided that ham would be the meat served and not just any ham, my wife said we were going to buy a double smoked ham from her favorite family owned butcher shop located only 100 miles from where the family event was to be held.

My wife’s family grew up in a small western Minnesota town living above the family business, a butcher shop and grocery store. As a result, my wife is selective in her meat purchases.

She doesn’t say to the butcher, “I want a pork chop.” She says, “I want that pork chop” as she points to a chop she has decided has the right amount of marbling and whatever else she is looking for in a quality piece of meat.

I am not as selective as my wife in meat purchases or food, in general. To me, food is either good or bad. There is a place in between I call “edible” which is neither good nor bad, just “edible.”

Serve me anything that resembles meat and potatoes and I am satisfied.

However, several years ago I attended a meeting of pork producers who raise their hogs the way my dad in the 1950s and 1960s – in a pasture and feed lot.

A plate of thin-sliced ham on a bun was passed around and I took one to be polite, assuming it was one of funny tasting pork products with a metallic taste.

Was I wrong.

It was delicious and as I left I asked if there were any sandwiches I could take along. I got two more.

Meat is like many things a person buys. You get what you pay for.

Cheap meat tastes like cheap meat. Spend the extra and learn what a joy delicious meat is.

Because of some poor driving conditions last Christmas, the decision was made to not travel to the distant meat market.

We heard of a butcher chop with an excellent reputation in a small town just north of where we were staying. Its ham was not double-smoked, but maybe its reputation for quality would be good enough so my wife could serve a ham she could be proud of to her family.

We made the trip, my wife picked out the ham, served it to the family, and it was delicious.

It was so good that there was very little leftover meat for us to bring home, just the ham bone.

Back home my wife got the remaining meat off the bone and made sandwiches. I had two sandwiches and told my wife, “This ham is so good, it could be called dessert.”

For a guy like me who describes food as good or bad, with an occasional edible, this was high praise.

We consumers can do our job by shopping wisely and then cooking carefully to insure that when the ham or pork chop or anything else is served, the cook will be asked the best question of all, “Could I have some more of that?”

So if your Christmas ham was so-so, remember that Easter is coming with another chance to discover what a delicious ham is. I know it is there because I have tasted it.

Between now and Easter, do some research, ask cooks who serve delicious meals where they buy their meat.

Don’t assume all hams or pork chops or any other meat is all alike, they aren’t.

If price is your only requirement, you will be disappointed.

Then next Easter not only will you impress your guests with a delicious ham, you just might have leftovers for yourself if your guests don’t eat it all themselves.

You may need to buy a bigger ham.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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