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VOL. 37 | NO. 42 | Friday, October 18, 2013

Murfreesboro shop provides competition for Europe’s finest hams

By Nicki Pendleton Wood

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Hams from local Berkshire hogs age at G&W Hamery. These hams, prepared European style with feet remaining attached, are tagged for Nashville’s highly touted Rolf and Daughters restaurant.

-- Lyle Graves | Nashville Ledger

Flipping through pages of the Tienda catalog of hand-crafted and artisanal Spanish foods, Bob Woods’ head snapped around.

The owner of the G&W Hamery in Murfreesboro, Woods came across Iberico and Serrano hams, the classic cured, uncooked hams of Spain, sliced thin and served like prosciutto.

An acorn-fed boneless Iberico ham sells for around $1,200. Even the less-expensive hams from Spain are more than $300.

Keep in mind a Hamery ham sells for $80.

Maybe Woods’s technique doesn’t produce a ham precisely like an Iberico, but Hamery hams aren’t 6,000 percent less fantastic.

In fact, he judges his hams by how they taste uncooked.

“Every time I take a bone out of a ham, I taste a little of it, to make sure it’s OK for my customers.”

He knew it was good. And he knew people wanted it.

“The Food Network showed people how to appreciate Serrano and prosciutto. There was an interest in it,” and suddenly a market, he says.

He sold his first uncooked hams to a restaurant in San Francisco that served 2 ounces of it on a charcuterie platter with flatbread for $12.

Woods set aside some of the hams to age another year. He groomed them meticulously, deboned them and vacuumed sealed them, then massaged them into a shape that’s easy to cut very thin on a meat slicer.

He named this special product “Tennshootoe,” a nod to prosciutto and his home state.

Tennshootoe is salty and silky, with a slight mineral flavor and a melting texture, pretty much like Iberico ham.

Woods offered his special ham to local restaurants the old fashioned way: “I started walking into the back doors of restaurants and saying, ‘I’ve got an old ham here I want you to try.’”

You can find Tennshootoe on the menu at Urban Grub, etch, Husk, Rolf and Daughters, Flyte, Red Pony, Holland House and Lockeland Table, as well as several out-of-state restaurants.

So, yeah, that worked.

Now the experimenting continues, and Woods is considering heritage breed hogs.

He’s currently curing a long-shank ham from a Bear Creek Farm hog for Phil Krajeck and Rolf and Daughters, and a heritage breed from hog breeder Karen Overton.

G&W Hamery used to shut down for the summer. Woods would return voice mails, and open up the shop for someone who had called for a ham. But there weren’t store hours until autumn, when he hired seasonal help.

That changed a couple of years ago, and now he has the luxury of keeping his best employees all year.