Tag Archives: Loveless Cafe

Tennesee Country Ham

Ah… country ham. It’s pretty much unknown here in Canada. It’s a southern treat that has a character all its own and completely distinct from the “city ham” we are used to here. Here‘s a breakdown of how they differ.

On our first trip to Nashville, we had country ham for breakfast one day, served with Red Eye gravy. It was a revelation. Salty, meaty and with a depth we weren’t prepared for. Of course it goes perfectly with the gravy made from the ham drippings, some black coffee and a little brown sugar.

For a family holiday dinner this year, I decided to try a whole salt and sugar cured country ham, bought by mail order from the Loveless Cafe out of Nashville.

A country ham is no picnic. It’s a multi-day prep process to make this ham ready to eat. When you remove the wrapping, it’s covered in a fine mold from being hung for up to two years, kind of like an aged cheese. It was also well, a little funky. After a good brushing, the ham needed to soak in water for two days with complete water changes twice a day. Removing the hock (the large knot of bone at one end of the ham) is optional but requires a saw. I opted to leave it in.

Country Ham 1Country Ham 2

Country Ham 3Country Ham 4After the skin is removed, you score the fat and bake the ham for 4 hours or so. With an hour to go, you brush on some glaze to caramelize onto the ham. I used some of Loveless Cafe’s amazing peach preserves, ginger and some grainy mustard.

Country Ham 5Country Ham 6

Country Ham 7Country Ham 8When the ham was finished baking, the glaze was shiny and cooked on and the ham smelled delicious. I let it sit for a half-hour before carving  into slices with an electric knife. It was juicy, smoky, sweet and a little salty with more depth and complexity than other ham I’ve had.

Country Ham 10

Country Ham 13We served the ham with biscuits, scalloped potatoes, a brussel sprout hash made with pecans and a maple basalmic vinaigrette, mustard pickles, and some of those best-ever peach preserves.

Country Ham 9Having the freshly carved ham is great, but the next morning, having it with freshly baked biscuits is really the raison d’etre for this ham. It’s its calling. There’s a reason ham and biscuits is a time-honoured Southern tradition, and now it’s one of ours.

Dish: Jam Session

I’m a jam guy. I really like good jam. By good jam, I mean the kind where the fruit flavour (and content) is prevalent and it’s not overly gummy with pectin and other thickeners. As well, most commercial jams are just too damn sweet and frankly, it’s unnecessary.

I’ve come across some tremendous jams in our travels, and I always pick up a couple to bring home and have no issue with buying really, really good jams through mail order. As well, there are some lovely boutique jam makers close to home. I thought I’d highlight a couple that have really impressed me.

First up is Michael’s Dolce, a local jam maker who is delivering delicious and unique flavour combinations that you don’t see anywhere else, such as Rhubarb/Black pepper, Pear/Vanilla, or Fig/Blood Orange. You can check their website for where to buy them, but they are available at many of the better food shops in the city as well as in Toronto and now making inroads into Montreal. We’ve bought their jams at Piggy Market and the Ottawa Bagel Shop.

My favorite is Kiwi/Lime: It has an intense citrus punch that’s fresh and tart and softened just a bit by the melony sweetness of the kiwi. Peach/Cardamom is another fave – a fresh farmer’s market staple, mixed with an exotic spice.

…and then there’s the Loveless Cafe’s Peach Preserves.

On one of our road trips, we found ourselves at the Loveless Cafe on the outskirts of Nashville, TN. It’s a local landmark where it’s famous for making the best biscuits in the USA. Of course this would be a hotly contested claim, but they are highly regarded, and we have to say that their biscuits were unique, fluffy, rich and delicious. They serve them with preserves, like a Mexican restaurant gives you tortilla chips and salsa as you sit down and peruse the menu. They chose to serve us a raspberry jam (which was good, but not mind-altering) and their peach preserves which surprised us with their colour, texture and flavour.

The jam is brown, not the light, peachy colour we’ve come to expect. That’s because Loveless Cafe chooses to caramelize the peaches, which accounts for the rich, darkness and flavour.

These are available by mail order throughout the US and Canada, but from Canada, you’d have to call them to order, as like many US-based business, their on-line ordering systems just doesn’t recognize the existence of other countries. We only had a quarter-jar left from our last order of 4 jars, forcing us to make do for these photos. Now we have to order more. Give them a call, you’ll be happy you did.