Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Historical ham

My faithful readers know that one of my favorite topics (although not mentioned in the masthead) is old food. Well, have I got a winner of a story for you today! In 1902, a ham was cured at Gwaltney meats in Smithfield, Virginia, U.S., and hung in a packinghouse for 20 years. Once the overlooked leg of meat was rediscovered, owner P.D. Gwaltney, Jr., adopted it as his "pet ham" (IMAGE ABOVE) and opened the iron safe in which it was housed for guests to view. In addition, he fashioned a brass collar for it and carried the ham to shows and expos to exhibit the preservative powers of his smoking method. The meat got an even wider audience when it was donated to the Isle of Wight County Museum, where it currently resides (IMAGE HERE). The now 122-year-old ham would have been dry cured (salted and drained of blood), but after a few years the fat would have oxidized, imparting a rancid flavor. Still, there is some question whether the old ham – as ugly as it is – could still be safely eaten. But as the BBC observes, "To most people 'edible' means more than the ability to eat something without it killing you."

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