The FarmerandChef made their first road trip to one of the most special venues in the pork world,
Early one morning the Farmer and the Chef started their journey down I-81 to
As the morning started early, we asked if there was a place he would recommend for lunch that may serve some of his products. He assured us there was not and that “we are more famous in
We drove up to
When we entered the building, we were greeted by a man, wearing his overall’s and sitting on a bench placed there for all of the locals to congregate, drink coffee, share gossip, and critique the work of all those bustling about actually working.
Mr. Allan Benton, proprietor, generally answers the phone, gives tours, greets each customer with the respect and excitement you would think would be reserved for the President or the Pope. And he gave us the same treatment. Although we know famous chefs from across the country have visited his shop, he was gracious and incredulous that “a chef would travel all the way from
He also appreciated the reality of farming when he assessed that The Farmer “must be the most successful farmer he has ever met if he had made enough gas money to travel all that way to see him”.
As Chef Sean Brock of McCrady’s Restaurant in
Allan Benton started his career as a high school guidance counselor after getting his Master’s Degree. Having grown up in
Some 35 years ago, the smoke house that would cure and smoke all the locals’ pork, decided to close. The smoke house was in the back yard of the owner and the school quidance counselor started working with him and eventually bought the operation. Working at school during the day and the smoke house at night, Allan Benton kept an important local resource open and providing a service so many had come to rely upon.
Although after a few years, Mr. Benton, built a new smoke house and moved out of the back yard of his friend and former owner. But he proclaims over and over again, ‘it’s just a hillbilly operation”.
As the years went by, Mr. Benton grew the business by focusing on what every chef cherishes, good products from the best farmers he could find. Allan created business relationships with farmers of Heritage Breeds of hogs and now works with farmers such as Fudge Farms. Fudge Farms, in
As we take our tour, we see racks and racks, made of 2 x 4’s, to hold hams and pork bellies, during the various stages of production. There is no automation, no fork lifts, just people who personally handle each ham and put personal pride into each one.
On each rack is a simple card that states when the ham was first salted, had the second salt applied, when it was smoked, and how long it had been cured. Hams older than a year hang on racks in every nook and cranny. But Mr. Benton took us to the hams that have been curing over 2 years. Try to find a Smithfield Ham that has been cured for over two years!
We had the pleasure of seeing a new batch of hams start the process of being salted, see Mr. Benton’s smoke house and fire box, and talk to him about the reverence so many fine chefs have for his product.
When I asked about buying some of his famous sack sausage, a product he will not ship so one must pick it up in person, he became cautious and concerned. He told us how he “had some for breakfast this morning and it just was not right. I used a new batch of sage and it may not be right”. The Farmer and the Chef each brought some home and thought it was exceptional.
We can assure everyone, that there is no better smoked bacon. It redefines what bacon should be.
The 25 month old cured ham, sliced for prosciutto, creates a heavenly culinary experience. The full hickory smoke flavor is soft and delightful. The “European Style” prosciutto will inspire a chef who has never had the chance to use artisan pork.
The FarmerandChef left with arms full of bacon, prosciutto, and cured hams. The Farmer will never buy bacon in a grocery store again and is already looking for a slicer so that he is never without