#OutaboutNC: Ham and Yams Give North Carolina's Johnston County Bragging Rights

Do you remember that old Trisha Yearwood song, "The Song Remembers When"?  I feel that way about food and how it can trigger memories. I associate my vacations with what I ate while on my adventures. For example, I'll never forget this special trattoria in Italy that was just a few steps from our hotel where I had the best antipasti ever or the carrot soup I had in Ireland in a pub. My mind takes me back to the exact moment where I can relive those memories all over again.  Those experiences were more than 15 years ago and I can see the restaurant and the cuisine like it was yesterday in my mind. 

I remember eating my first country ham biscuit.  It was probably in my Dad's restaurant in 1976.  I have been a fan of Southern ham and biscuits since that time. 

Ham Biscuits at the Ham and Yam Festival in Smithfield, NC

For me, the "food remembers when", and apparently, I am not alone. In a survey released this week from the online company Miss Travel, revealed in a press release that "food is the gateway to a country’s people, history, and culture. Experiencing local, authentic cuisine while on vacation is a must"

Results revealed that 46 percent of travelers prefer to splurge on local cuisine rather than paying extra for airfare or accommodations. I may not fly first-class, but I still keep accommodations at a high standard because that is an important part of travel for me. If mama isn't happy in her hotel then no one is happy, unfortunately, but at least I am brave enough to admit it. Having an authentic meal or experiencing local activities could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and travelers are willing to pay the price. Food festivals like Oktoberfest in Germany or the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival have drawn millions of travelers seeking to engage in local culinary celebrations.

Smithfield, NC: Home to the Ham and Yam Festival the first weekend in May.

Smithfield, North Carolina's annual Ham and Yam Festival in May may not draw millions of people, but it's putting Johnston County's agriculture heritage and its local food in the spotlight. It's a chance for organizers to showcase the best of its Southern cuisine. Locals will be gathering in the picture book, Southern small town where they will eat, play, and socialize.

Quaint, Southern Homes in Smithfield, NC #outaboutnc

Johnston county, with quick access off I-95 in North Carolina, is the number one sweet potato producer in the U.S. 

Johnston County is the Number One Sweet Potato Producer in the U.S

Johnston County Hams, based in Smithfield, is one of the most famous ham producers in the world. It's known for its unique talent of curing ham using the same techniques as early colonists.  

The secret behind Johnston County Hams has been in the Brown family for generations. Curemaster, Rufus Brown, studied under his Dad, Jesse Brown, who made the ham famous across the world in 1967. Brown is growing the family company as it is making a name for itself in high-end culinary circles, especially as farm-to-table dining becomes a priority for today's millennials.

Lady Edison Ham is cured for 18 months.

Brown is co-creator of Lady Edison Hams along with Chapel Hill BBQ restauranteur, Sam Suchoff. Their partnership with sustainably raised hogs from the North Carolina Natural Hog Growers Associations results in the production of a gourmet country ham. This pork masterpiece is aged about 18 months and is most like its counterpart in Spain with a taste more savory than salty.

Chefs on the East Coast are beginning to source Lady Edison Ham on its menu. Mateo in Durham features both Brown's Johnston County's ham and Lady Edison. Momofuko in New York City features this North Carolina product, and the restaurant list grows daily with more than twenty other ones serving the ham on its farm-to-table change with the growing season menu.

No doubt, ham is good with olives, fine cheese and it's even better in a biscuit. Add some sweet potato pie, yam smoothies, and you have a great meal and event. That's the hope of organizers for the annual Ham and Yam Festival held the first Saturday of each May. This will be the 32nd year that Smithfield pays tribute to its agriculture heritage.

You guessed it. There will be plenty of ham, BBQ, sweet potato pie, and much more as the town celebrates the importance of today's modern farming community.

Learn more about Johnston County attractions:
Visit Johnston County
Smithfield Ham and Yam Festival

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