When he first moved to New York City in 1972, the Montreal born Monte Mathews went to a dinner party where the host advised: If you want to impress, “buy an expensive watch and serve a cheap ham.”
But Mathews, a retired Madison Avenue creative director, who handled campaigns for Sara Lee, Jimmy Dean, and most recently Newman’s Own, knew that “nothing could be worse on God’s earth than cheap ham.” So for a second career, he dove into books like Pig Perfect and A Field Guide to Pigs. He printed up “Be a Hambassador” T-shirts and cocktail napkins. He created a Ham-a-daire for storing masses of meat in his cellar. He started a blog, www.chewingthefat.us.com . And, with the help of Patrick Martins at Heritage Foods USA, he found the Purdys, a family that cuts, smokes and cures ham in Seneca County, New York. The ham comes from neighboring Amish families who raise heritage breed hogs (Duroc-Landrace crosses to be exact) without hormones or antibiotics and mostly on pastures planted to alfalfa, clover and rye. Monte’s Ham was born.
The hogs met Mathews’s criteria for pork raised well, not cheaply. And the particular bone-in cut he settled on, with a ¼-inch fat layer, and cured with pure smoke (no nitrates) and a brown sugar rub, met his standards for flavor. “My ham needs fat. It’s so key to the moistness of the ham.” But Monte’s Ham Original Glaze, the one concocted of Dijon mustard, organic brown sugar, orange marmalade and a special blend of spices, that won praise from the New York Times Book Review, is the flavor booster.
Monte’s Ham starts shipping October 1 and continues through the end of the year. “These are holiday hams,” Mathews says. The “Pride of New York” collection—13-to-15-pound bonein ham, 16-ounce glaze and 1 ounce of Fancy Madagascar Cloves in a linen-lined box—enough for a couple of dinner parties or many meals at home, will be $189. (And a share of profits go to City Harvest.) Which comes out to about $10 per pound for pastured heritage breed pork, not bad considering Boar’s Head is recently on sale at King Kullen for $6.99.
And Mathews is already looking into the New Year, kitchen testing honey-tamarind glazed ribs for Memorial Day and bacon for whenever. His second glaze will be released just in time for next Easter.
Order at www.montesham.com.