Col. Nancy Newsom’s Kentucky Ham
Is Keeping Some "Fancy" Company
Aug. 17, 2005 — The Times Leader Princeton, Ky.
A Princeton businesswoman has seen the spotlight rising on her unique enterprise during the past two years.
Newsom’s Aged Kentucky Ham has been featured in a new book being released across the country. The book is “Pig Perfect” by New York Times outdoor writer and food columnist Peter Kaminsky.
Owner/ham producer Nancy Newsom Mahaffey was recently interviewed and featured on a food show broadcast by KCRW radio in California. Her aged hams have been touted by several chefs, restaurants and catering companies across the nation, and featured by food writers for magazines and newspapers such as the New York Times, Executive Chef and the Snail. And, just five short weeks ago, “the Ham Lady,” as Mahaffey was named a couple of years earlier by the Wall Street Journal, was a guest expert speaker on an educational panel at 51st annual Fancy Food Show in New York City.
Col. Nancy Newsom Mahaffey’s aged ham was keeping some “fancy” company at the show. She was invited to appear with her ham at the event which drew several thousand visitors to the Jacob Javits Convention Center, July 10-12.
“This is truly an honor to be flown to New York to appear on the program for this food show. I have always said that I would like to take my ham to the show someday, but had never seen it as something that my business could afford, And, here it is the second time in the past two years that my ham has been featured at events in the Javits Center by invitation,” Nancy said.
Invited as a specialist in the field of aged country ham and prosciutto ham, Mahaffey was tapped as a national expert ham producer appearing in a guided tasting that focused on the artisan, dry-cure of Newsom’s ham and hams like it.
Following the speaking engagement at New York, Nancy appeared on the radio show “Good Food” broadcast on KCRW radio in Santa Monica, Cal. Noted chef, restaurateur and show host Evan Kleiman introduced Nancy’s aged hams, traditions and expertise to her audience of food fanciers.
Kleiman, who tested the ham as an internet customer before making contact with the store, called Nancy the ham goddess of good taste.
She asked that question that many who find the ham are curious to know. "Do you have an apprentice? Is there someone to carry on?" Nancy replied, "Well, yes, sort of, he just doesn't know it yet."
Newsom’s ham has been gaining recognition by food writers and chefs across the nation as a truly traditional product — artisan in nature.
The ham takes a prominent place in Kaminsky’s book which entails a seven-year study of pork, aged, rare and exotic hams as he travels the world over in search of the perfect pig.
Kaminsky devoted a chapter of his book to the Princeton ham producer and makes reference to Newsom’s ham throughout the work.
A story produced for Food and Wine magazine several years earlier sparked the idea and began the quest that took Kaminsky throughout the south to every haven of prized country ham and across the ocean to the Mediterranean, Italy, Spain and the Black Forest region of Germany.
He explored the way pigs grow and, of course, the way that their meat is cured.
Kaminsky states that Newsom’s ham “sets the bar for American standards” of aged ham quality and flavor.” Newsom said that the book has been a wonderful validation of her efforts to keep the tradition and artisanship in the product that comes from her smokehouse.
“I don’t know if it is the equivalent of being discovered by James Beard, who has been recognized as the father of gourmet cooking in the U.S., but it is certainly a milestone of recognition for our business,” Nancy said.
Beard found Newsom’s in 1976, wrote about the Colonel’s ham and people across the nation started ordering as the beginning of mail order business.
The ham was recently featured in an article in Gourmet magazine, Nancy has been interviewed by Men’s Vogue and the Executive Chef. Also, Newsom’s ham was included in the New York Times with two recent restaurant features and has been interviewed for upcoming articles.
The ham process stays true to tradition. That is one constant that must remain in the business, Nancy says, but the nature of the marketing and her own growing role as an expert speaker in demand have changed. “It’s been evolving. It has to evolve not to be swallowed up in the slow pace of our small town economy,” said Nancy.
The market has grown to include the internet and the mail order season has extended. The hams are still all given individual attention and hang for several months before considered ready for a table.
What’s next? Well, it’s getting close to ham harvest time — that’s exciting. And, Nancy has been contacted by yet another national attraction arranging a lineup of experts to speak about food traditions and Col. Newsom’s aged Kentucky hams.
And so, the story goes…