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‘Man Fire Food’ is ‘Hamming It Up’ on Cooking Channel

Roger Mooking of Man Fire Food at Benton's Smoky Mtn Hams
Roger Mooking of Man Fire Food at Benton's Smoky Mtn Hams
"Photo courtesy of Cooking Channel, used with permission."

On tonight’s episode of “Man Fire Food,” Roger Mooking, chef, musician and lover of all things smoky and delicious, went to Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams in Madisonville, Tenn. and in the episode titled “Hamming It Up.”

Roger is on his way to Madisonville to meet with the man himself, Allan Benton to see how they make their hams and bacon, and why chefs all over the country will wait sometimes five weeks for their smoky products. When Roger arrived, the smell told him that he was in hog heaven, and Allan cheerfully told him that it was heaven for lots of hogs since 1973. Roger tasted country ham that was delicious and went to the smoke room to see how they did it at Benton’s. The fire came from an old homemade wood stove used to generate the smoke. The add wood at least three times a day.

The next day, Roger returned to helping cure the hams with Allan, provided he did not mind getting his hands dirty. So Roger was ready, willing and able to be turned into a Tennessee hillbilly. He saw how Allan rubbed the hams with salt, brown sugar, sodium nitrite, black and red pepper and coated them well. Then stacked them in a pile, the same way they did before refrigeration. When done, the hams were smoked and aged; some up to two years. The young ones only stay for about six months.

Roger started by cooking some thick sliced bacon to render the grease to cook the ham. Allan had some of his wife’s delicious biscuits for Roger and he to have a quick bite of the meat on the yummy biscuit.

Next, Roger was on his way to Virginia to visit with Sam Edwards in Surry. Sam is a third-generation ham master who runs Edwards, with their five smokehouses and makes ham, bacon and sausages. In their eighty-third year, Sam showed Roger how their use of sawdust is the secret ingredient in their smoke. The sawdust keeps the temperature even, and Roger lit the fire with the torch. He observed city hams and country hams, sausages and bacon, but the Surryano, that is similar to prosciutto was amazing. No cooking necessary, but these hams age for about four years and are sliced paper-thin.

Roger fried up some country ham and deglazed the pan with coffee to make gravy that they sopped up with more biscuits. Roger was truly in pig heaven on this episode of “Man Fire Food.”

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