Here it is--a 15 pound bone-in Smithfield ham, dry-cured in North Carolina and sold by my neighborhood butcher. Before cooking, he's instructed my mom and I to soak it in two changes of water, 12 hours each time, in a big cooler. It's a Christmas adventure inspired by Saveur's mouthwatering December issue. Stay tuned.
We've lived in or near Columbia City for 13 years. When we first moved there, the main street had a tavern, an office supply store, and Bob's Quality Meats. Now, there's an artisan bakery, several coffee shops, renowned Neapolitan pizza, sushi, a wine bar and yes--Bob's Quality Meats. They have new wood floors, a spiffy neon sign, and gleaming new coolers, but the same friendly, knowledgeable butcher that's been there for years. He knows his sources, cures his own ham, makes all the sausage, sells unusual cuts, and has bent over backward for me several times. Years ago, catering a wedding, we had called everywhere looking for the impossible: lamb from Eastern Washington, cut into boneless chunks, enough for 300 people, and ready by the weekend. Bob's said, "No problem." This summer, catering a wedding rehearsal, I grilled 150 of Bob's handmade sausages outside. By the end, there were just 2 left sizzling over the coals, and 10 people standing around waiting for thirds.
I love that Bob's stayed around during the height of supermarket, agribusiness mania when no one knew where their meat came from or thought to ask. Its neighborhood clientele sustained it long enough for the local butcher to be in vogue again. And nowhere else in Seattle have I seen Smithfield hams hanging from hooks above the cash register. Am I a lucky girl or what?