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Archive for the ‘Ham & Bacon’ Category

Hazels Diner and Bakery Review, Hebron, IL

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Hazels Diner and Bakery ReviewLong ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was convinced I had stumbled upon the best breakfast potatoes in the country.

OK, it wasn’t a galaxy, it was a breakfast horseshoe in Springfield, and after breakfast at Hazel’s Diner and Bakery, Springfield has been relegated to second place.

Located in the quiet ville of Hebron, IL, on the border of Illinois and Wisconsin, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place more committed to scratch cooking. All baked goods, breads jams, spreads, donuts, cakes, pastries come from the kitchen.

The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch daily, except Monday.  In addition to the home-made quality of the food, expect massive servings.  Hazels Diner and Bakery ReviewThough technically it was lunchtime, I ordered breakfast – simple, ham and eggs, potatoes, rye toast.

Everything was prepared precisely as ordered and meticulously plated.

The thick-sliced house-baked rye is amazing.  Excellent quality ham off the bone, salty and smoky with a very firm bite.  I’m a ham snob and this is an excellent choice.  Breakfast potatoes, rough cut, roasted, lightly seasoned, are over the top. You may opt for a shredded version as well.

My companion ordered a variation of eggs benedict, poached eggs, strip bacon, artichokes and spinach atop a house-baked English muffin and bathed in silky, creamy Hollandaise in ample quantities. ( “Excuse me, could you bring a tumbler of that and then look away while I chug it?”).

The restaurant is pleasantly decorated with Americana, and service is very small-town friendly.  Unisex bathroom is immaculate.

Baked goods are available for purchase, including breads, donuts, muffins and other pastries.  There are a few tables outside and they beckon passersby to grab a donut and coffee and watch small town America go by on a lazy summer morning.

The restaurant/town is a mere ten minutes south if you’re staying in the Lake Geneva resort area in Wisconsin.  Ask for Amy, server extraordinaire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hazels Diner and Bakery Review

Hazels Diner and Bakery Review

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Harpers Country Ham Review

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Harpers Country Ham ReviewMan I love good ham. OK, I love bad ham, too.  But “country cured” – a dry cure lengthy process with salt, hickory smoked,  that’ll get me everytime. I’ve driven back roads of Missouri, Virginia, the Carolinas and Kentucky in search of small processors.

I’d never heard of Harper’s, even tho they’ve been around since 1952, and I might not have ever heard of them as they suffered a devastating fire last year and had to look around for a frenemy to cure their pork for them.  Which they found in “Goodnight Brothers” of Boone, NC.

I ran into these hams at BOOMLAND!  a retail oddity on I-57 (and two other locations) in Missouri. Giant fireworks stores, knick-knacks, regional foods, ice cream parlor, and discount tobacconist.  I prefer the boneless biscuit size slice packages (which are only biscuit sized if your biscuits are the size of a small frisbee).  I bought all they had.  It was a BOGO thing.  It freezes fine.

Country cured ham can be very salty. Many people give it a simmer in water prior to frying, baking, whatever.  I’ve also known people who soak it in cold water overnight, or in the case of a whole ham, for several days.

I do or don’t, cause I love the flavor.  I eat it on its own as a snack, on sandwiches, but especially for breakfast.

Happy I found the product.  Sad I won’t run into it again for a few years.  Probably. Tho Goldbely has it for shipping from time to time it seems.

Harpers was the winner of the 2013 and 2014 National Champion Country Ham. 2013 Grand Champion Ham at Kentucky State Fair.

Harpers Country Ham Review

 

 

 

 

 

Harpers Country Ham Review

Harpers Country Ham Review

 

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Crocketts 1875 Breakfast Camp Review – Gatlinburg, TN

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Crocketts 1875 Breakfast Camp

Crocketts 1875 Breakfast Camp ReviewI’m big about avoiding tourist traps or “voted best XXX 10 years in a row.”

Unless I specifically head out for one, of course, and Crocketts 1875 Breakfast Camp was just one such destination.

I was going to be passing near Gatlinburg, and I thought the least I could do to help boost their local economy after their devastating fires would be to stop and have breakfast.

It’s a tourism mecca, so there is no shortage of themed restaurants, but I liked the menu at Crocketts (it’s only open from 7A-1P BTW), and especially had my eye on their country fried ham, because as I am sure you know, I am a fiend for ham.

It’s a long menu, offering you a choice of egg breakfasts, omelets, skillets, “griddle cakes” and accompaniments.

For some reason, my eyes alit on the most expensive thing on the menu, the Black Bear Camp Skillet, which pretty much assured you one of everything else on the menu:  two eggs, ham, sausage, bacon, taters, biscuit, gravy, pone, cheese grits and a monster “griddle cake.”

I did a respectible job at polishing it off, breakfast potatoes are not my thing, they take up capacity needed for more pork products, and the giant pancake suffered the same fate. Oh, passed on pone, too.

All of it was great. One small ordering glitch (that I have run into a few times lately).  I like my eggs “basted.”  Pretty standard method of cooking.  No can do here. Know why? There isn’t a button for it on the computer.  Scrambled, Up, Over Easy, Over Hard.  That’s it.  Odd.

But otherwise.

Breakfast for two with beverages is going to run your near or north of $40.  Nice kids menu. Be prepared to wait for a table at peak hours. Lots of wall decor that will fascinate the kiddies; no separate menu that I saw, but ordering off the ala carte menu you’ll do ok.

Didn’t get your fill?  They’ll sell you giant cinnamon rolls to go, as well as other souvenirs.

Fun stop. Good grub. Onward.  Spoiler alert.  Nothing to do with “Davy Crockett” if that’s what you were thinking, as I was.

I think I was in Gatlinburg once before, but just a zip through. Reminds me of Wisconsin Dells, if you’ve ever traveled that way.  For that matter, the restaurant is somewhat reminiscent of the Paul Bunyan Cook Shanty Restaurant in the Dells, only difference being breakfast there is served family style and you’ll receive a complementary starter of freshly fried donuts!

Here’s the entire menu.

Crocketts 1875 Breakfast Camp Review

Black Bear Camp Skillet

 

Crocketts 1875 Breakfast Camp Review

Griddle Cake – Yes, it is as big as it appears! 

Crockett's Breakfast Camp Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Crocketts 1875 Breakfast Camp Review

Crocketts 1875 Breakfast Camp Review

 

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Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat Review – A WalMart Product

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Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat ReviewI write a lot about ham, it seems.  Because I love it.

I love premium hams and have driven background all over the country in search of small processors, and been very successful in Virginia, Tennessee, the Carolinas, and Missouri. I have quite a few reviews of very expensive ham, as well as very cheap “ham.”

Today we’re talking about the latter, Great Value (WalMart brand) Smoked Ham lunchmeat.  I’ve always called this type of meat “pressed, chopped, and formed,” but that’s really the wrong order. Earlier advertisements for this segment label it “chopped pressed and cooked” and that’s more apt, isn’t it?

Bits of pork, seasonings, a saline solution and artificial smoke are combined to make a “loaf” which is thin sliced and packaged.

This product is made for WalMart by an old Chicago area meat processor, Carl Buddig. I have pix of their factory below, and also of their own packaging for similar product, which you will surely recognize. Incidentally, Buddig makes some of the best hot dogs on the planet, in natural casings, the brand is “Old Wisconsin,” which are a pork and beef blend.  Buddig is privately held, and still run by the founder’s family members.

Bottom line, this type of “ham” really has no taste or texture to me. I’ve always thought the only differences in the contents of the Buddig packages below was color. I had a lot of that stuff for school lunches a million years ago. Take a bite, no clue what is was. Lift the bread? Brown, roast beef, pink, ham, white, turkey.

Here’s the thing. The Great Value is $2.50 for 9 ounces. That’s anywhere from $2-$4 less than big brand names for the same amount, and basically the same product, unless you’re getting into the high-end, slice at the deli counter kinda thing. And there aren’t many of those that are worth the additional cost. IMHO.

Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat Review

Smoked ham slices

Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat Review

Buddig Brand Packaging

Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat Review

Old Time Buddig Package

Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat Review

Buddig Factory, 25 miles south of downtown Chicago

 

 

Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat Review

Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat Review

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Lunch Mate Cooked Ham Review – An Aldi Branded Product

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Lunch Mate Cooked Ham ReviewI have reviewed quite a few products found at Aldi, a global grocery retailer that focuses on value-priced items.

They are able to achieve lower costs by largely staying away from big brand names, and instead, creating their own brands and contracting the manufacture and packaging of them to quality co-packers and producers.

This product is typically used for sandwiches and similar purposes and is thin-sliced in equally sized rectangles. It achieves this quality being sliced off a “loaf” of ham, which is created from mechanically separated pork parts, water and spices. An image of the ingredients appears below.

For this time, Aldi has turned to the ham manufacturing expertise of Plumrose, USA, a division of Europe’s largest pork processor, Denmark’s Danish Crown Company. In the U.S., both for it’s own label and other outlets, Plumrose produces bacon, ham, deli counter and canned meat items.

Last year, Plumrose USA was purchased by Brazilian food giant, JBS, the largest meat processor in the world, with 150 plants and 200,000 employees.  JBS owns several brands you are familiar with, including Swift & Company, which in turn has a couple dozen pork and beef brands,  and Pilgrim’s Pride Chickens. These hams are made at the Plumrose plant in Booneville, MS, 100 miles southeast of Memphis, TN.

Back to the subject.  This type of ham is created on a basis similar as to seen in this video:  trimmed pork is marinated, further chopped, pressed in to a shape for market, and then smoked.

The result is a flavorful ham product, and Aldi’s is as good as any lunch meat style ham, and of course, priced much less than big brands.  Structural integrity of texture is important to me, that it closely resembles the mastication experience of whole muscle meat, and this comes close enough.

 

Lunch Mate Cooked Ham Review

 

Lunch Mate Cooked Ham Review

 

Lunch Mate Cooked Ham Review

Plumrose Mississippi Plant

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Winstons Irish Bacon Review

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Winstons Irish Bacon ReviewWhen you request bacon in the US, you know what you are going to get. Smoked/cured thin slices of pork belly, with streaks of fat parallel to streaks of delicious meat.

Unless you request “Canadian Bacon” which is neither Canadian nor bacon, but very lean sliced pork loin,  cured and smoked. Outside of the US, “American style” bacon is often referred to as “streaky bacon.”

Not so in other parts of the world, where you can be faced with a number of choices.  In the UK and other remnants of the Empire, where you will most often be served what is referred to in the US and Canada as “back bacon,” thin slices of smoked (or not) pork cut from both the loin and a small bit from the belly.  It is cut from the same part of the hog as pork chops.

Order a “full breakfast” in England, and it will come with a couple slices of back bacon, sausage, eggs, baked beans, mushrooms, and toast. Maybe a grilled tomato. Depends on what part of the country you are in.

All this to say, in my recent visit to the mecca of foodie groceries, Jungle Jims, there are many choices of bacon to put in your cart, including a number of selections not made from pork. (My father was a habitual beef bacon consumer. It’s very lean, pretty chewy, but very tasty).

I picked up a pack of “Winston’s Irish Bacon,” which, to my surprise, is made here in Chicago. I’ve never seen it before, but apparently, Winston’s is a fairly old company specializing in Irish foods, they are wholesale processors, but also have a couple of markets and a restaurant.

Anyhow, Winstons bacon is delish.  I’m eager to track down some of their sausages and whatever else they got. Their factory/store is on the far south side of Chicago, but probably worth a drive. I’m a sucker for new sausage suppliers!

In the end, quality bacon at my house nearly always leads to a gooey fried egg sammich. Today was no exception!

Winstons Irish Bacon Review

In the pan, fried for 2 minutes a side

 

Winstons Irish Bacon Review

My fried egg sammich

 

Winstons Irish Bacon Review

Chicago factory and retail outlet

 

Winstons Irish Bacon Review

Winstons Irish Bacon Review

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Lake Geneva Country Meats Review, Lake Geneva Wisconsin

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Lake Geneva Country Meats ReviewI have been known to take road trips in search of small producers of processed pork products, especially hams. Jumping off the interstates, traveling back roads, stopping in diners to inquire about local products. Never disappointed.

The other day, I had been to a “pick your own” tomato farm, had a bushel of the beautiful red fruit, stopped at a great bakery and scored a loaf of rustic bread, so I knew I needed one more thing, some bodacious bacon to make BLTs (I had lettuce in the garden at home).

And with great delight, I happened upon Lake Geneva Country Meats, on State Road 50, a few miles east of the beach in Lake Geneva, WI.

The establishment is a large store of meats butchered and processed on the spot (factory/store picture below), dozens of kinds of sausages, hams, chops, beef, as well as specialty grocery items. It’s a modern, spacious, sparkling store, with friendly and knowledgeable help.

I scored the bacon, as well as an outrageously good ham steak. Both products were nicely cured with seasoning and just the right amount ofLake Geneva Country Meats Review
smoke. The thick cut bacon had great flavor and was very meaty.

Products are a little bit on the spendy side, but I’m good with that, to get diligently prepared products that actually taste like the animal they come from. I’m a snob about that. So much of the mass produced pork product in groceries these days doesn’t resemble actual pork in either taste or texture.A real disappointment.

Lake Geneva Country Meats is open from 8 AM Monday through Saturday.

Most importantly, pay them a visit. If you can’t, follow them on FBTwitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+. They have regular specials with good discounts. They sell some house-made rubs and spices on their website as well and there are some good recipes.

Family owned since 1965. P.S. The char on the ham? No, I didn’t burn it. I like it that way!

Lake Geneva Country Meats Review

Prepared Bacon

Lake Geneva Country Meats Review

 

Lake Geneva Country Meats Review

Reward! Ham & Eggs!!!

Lake Geneva Country Meats Review

Store Front

Lake Geneva Country Meats Review

State of the art plant

 

 

 

 

 

Lake Geneva Country Meats Review

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Fricks Ham Review, Missouri Processor

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Fricks Ham ReviewI love ham, and I’ve been fortunate to run into some great ones lately. Most recently the notable one was local, from All Grass Farms.

But I screwed up this week, didn’t do my research, and tho I was going to be close to a Missouri processor named Frick’s Meats, whose product I have enjoyed before, I completely spaced on it, missed an opportunity, other than to pick up a ham steak in a nearby grocer.

I had the ham once before, as a sliced half-ham product, and I liked that. I also had a Fricks product in Aldi’s braunschweiger.

Now I want more, and regularly.

The ham steak is a half inch thick, and charred up nicely in a cast iron skillet.  It’s smokey and salty with texture you’d expect from quality pork, and the flavors that remind you of a lengthy cure.

I’d buy it again, don’t usually see it in my local stores, but I’ll look again. If you can’t find Fricks in your store, they do sell a few products online.

Fricks Ham Review

Out of the package

Fricks Ham Review

5 mins each side

Fricks Ham Review

Washington, MO Factory

 

 

 

 

 

Fricks Ham Review

Fricks Ham Review

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All Grass Farms Review – Supplier of Sustainable Proteins

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All Grass Farms ReviewIf you’re even an occasional reader, you know how much I like great ham. Fresh from the farm type ham. Ham that tastes like a hog.

I’ve driven around the country in search of great suppliers, so I was delighted to be driving down a back road just outside of Chicago the other day, and spotting a hand painted sign with the inquiry “Got Pork?”

“Why no, I don’t,”  sez I to myself, so I turned in the driveway.

All Grass Farms is a small producer in Dundee, Illinois, who can take care of your beef, pork, poultry, eggs and raw milk needs 7 days a week, from a little shop they have on site.

These are grass fed animals, hormone free, and you’ll note the difference in taste and texture.  I picked up a slab ‘o ham, and it was spendy, but worth it. The carmelization you see is causing not by burning it (tho I like charred ham) but by the fact brown sugar is used in the cure. It’s also nicely smoked.

The muscle texture is superb, it hasn’t been pulverized to death by tenderizers or “brine injections.” I loathe meat like that. I’ll but this again, and may even venture into a quantity of pork. I’m certainly going to get some raw milk in the future, which you can’t find in main line grocers, but if you do have some you can make great cheese and butter at home, lickety-split. Or lemony snicket.

You can order online, but they don’t ship, you’ll still have to pick up. They’re open daily from 10-6. If you’re looking for something specific, you might want to inquire prior (847-852-7081) to making the trek – they do run out of popular items on occasion.  They can also set you up with bulk packages – say if you wanted half a hog or cow.

The meat is processed about 60 miles west by Eickman’s Processing Company, Seward, IL.  They also have a small retail shop on site, which is open until 5:30 Mon – Fri, and noon on Saturday.

It’s nice to know where your food comes from, especially these days when Washington is proposing eliminating many of the safe regs and inspections we’ve relied on in the past.

All Grass Farms Review

All Grass Farms Review

Store at the farm

All Grass Farms Review

Eickman’s Processing Co  – Storefront

All Grass Farms Review

Eickman’s Processing Co – Aerial

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Broadbent Hams Review – Legendary Kentucky Producer

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Broadbent Ham ReviewI love ham. Good ham. Not that chopped, pressed and formed in a slurry, pushed thru a mold deli slices like at Subway or grocery deli counters.

No, honest to goodness hog muscle, carefully cured and aged. I’ve driven the backroads of Kentucky, Virginia and other states in search of small producers.

I’ve had the pleasure of consuming ‘melt in your mouth’ jamon serrano at the Museum of Ham in Madrid. Same with Italian prosciutto.

And now I’ve found an American producer I can really get behind, Kentucky’s Broadbent Foods.

They’ve had it figured out for over 100 years, so much so they are constantly winning state and national competitions.

Available in “country” or “city” styles (the latter being a milder cure), you can purchase Broadbent hams in nearly any type of configuration you choose: whole, half, sliced, cooked, bone-in, boneless, uncooked, steaks, biscuit slices, seasoning bits and ground.

They also produce some mighty fine bacon and smoked sausages.

I loved their country ham, purchased slices and steaks. The cure provides for a stronger hog taste (I personally think meat should taste like the animals it comes from, especially beef and pork), and great texture. The biscuit slices are uncooked, so you can saute them in a fry pan with a little water added if you’re going for red eye gravy.

And why not?

Purchase Broadbent products online.

Broadbent Hams Review

 

Broadbent Hams Review

 

 

Broadbent Hams Review

Broadbent Hams Review

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