Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ham Heaven: Kentucky hams invited to Spain (and the Goose)

For "the ham lady," heaven may look like a smoke house. Nancy Newsom Mahaffey, happily known as "the ham lady," cures and smokes country hams according to her family's 200 year old recipes. Her grandfather opened a rural Kentucky general store next to the only stage coach stop on a 90-mile route, and her father took over the business when he was just 18. Today, Nancy still operates that same Princeton, Kentucky, general store, but she also directs Col. Newsom's Aged Kentucky Hams, the only American ham company with a grandfather clause that legally allows ambient (or open-air) dry curing.

And to allow the rest of us a little taste of heaven, Nancy has just released a set of limited edition hams. Free-range, Berkshire pigs provided the hams that Nancy and her team cured for 17 months. These nitrate-free country hams were dry-cured with pure Kentucky air. They've had a hand-rubbed salt cure and swung from the beams of an old smokehouse, but they've never felt refrigeration or unnatural temperature controls. The result is a silky, rosy slice with layers of intense flavor that range from fruity and sweet to raw and piquant. Chris compares these hams to the angelic Iberico. With a richness and concentration that emulates the old world ham plus a much more tempting flavor-to-price ratio, he admits a preference for this particular jamon de Kentucky.

Even in the land of Iberico, these hams are earning some well-deserved credit. During the first week of May, these hams will be celebrated as the first American ham ever featured at the World Congress of Dry-Cured Hams. Held biennially in Spain, the Congress meets for scientific, social, and cultural presentations. And yes, the official Congress schedule includes 30 minutes here and there for "dry-cured ham sandwich break." Sound like ham heaven to you?

Nancy contacted Chris to let him know about the hams' exciting trip to Spain and because she wanted the Goose to have two of these limited edition lovelies. Stop by soon and Chris will hand-slice your portion to order ($18/lb).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Indiana vodka and local caviar: Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

Did you know that Chris Eley has been elected as Vice President of the local Slow Food Indy chapter? He's already hard at work with the chapter board to plan a year of fun events that highlight all things "slow "(and tasty) in Indiana.

First up is a cocktail event this Sunday, April 26, at R Bistro. Starting at 4pm, Indy chef Neal Brown will be mixing cocktails featuring vodka from Indiana's first new distillery since prohibition, Heartland Distillers. On the passed plates will be a sampling of caviar produced right here in Indiana and just across the border in Kentucky.

Tickets are available at the door and are $20 for Slow Food Members and $25 for non-members. Over 21 only, please. Cheers!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Run salmon run

Spring gets the blessing and the blame for all kinds of, um, urges this time of year. Sure, there's a logical scientific explanation for why the daffodils bloom and when the trees bud, but perhaps the same mysterious impulse that drives salmon upstream also brings millions of grills and barbecues into the sun again. It's just that time of year.

Wild King Salmon--now available on pre-order from the Goose--spend years in the salty Pacific off the coast of Washington and Oregon. In the spring, they somehow manage to find the same fresh water river in which they were born. Racing up the powerful Columbia River takes a tremendous amount of energy (and the fish don't eat once they enter the fresh water), so Kings double their amount of "good fat," giving the fish a luscious, rich flavor and loads of heart-healthy Omega 3 in their firm flesh perfect for grilling.

Because over-fishing and environmental changes have had such devastating effects on wild salmon, protection and tradition are key to preservation. The wild Columbia River King Salmon available at the Goose are fished by local Native Americans whose peoples have used the same sustainable fishing practices for centuries. Even the greatest chefs and environmentalists agree that one of the best ways to protect endangered food is to eat it...and who could resist when these fish arrive fresh at the Goose, less than 48 hours out of the Columbia River?

"It's supple, silky, really a whole 'nuther flavor," Chris said about the differences between wild King and other salmon. Whole fish are available and Chris will hand-cut filets to order.
Remember, these fish are only available for a limited time each spring are available through pre-order only! Contact the Goose to place your order by Thursday at 5pm for pick up on Friday or Saturday.