The Lowndes County Ham and Eggs show is the only one in Georgia and one of only two in the country. Now, you might wonder why? Many folks are interested in good, local foods and the craft of curing meats. Well, it has to do with regulations and having the hogs slaughtered and cured in USDA certified facilities.
Years ago, men, women and children would cure the meats at home and bring the hams on the appointed day to the contest (and auction). But, now no meat can be sold that is not USDA certified so the process has changed dramatically. Most of the hogs are obtained from just a few farmers, rather than each contestant raising their own. In the fall, the hogs are taken to Fort Valley State University where they are slaughtered and the hams (and shoulders) are reserved for curing. The rest of the hog (head, feet and tails included) is returned to the submitter.
A curing team makes several trips from Valdosta to Fort Valley for the curing process. This involves applying a salt mixture to the meat over the course of several weeks. The hams are hung in USDA certified, temperature and environment controlled facilities.
In the 2012 contest, just one ham was judged unfit for sale. In the 2013 contest there were five. Why was this? There were some system failures at the facility that may have caused the uneven cure (resulting in a sour taint). The cure team makes several trips, has a detailed set of instructions on application of the cure, turning and hanging of the meat and smoking of the product. There might be more shows and contests like this one if the processing could be done locally and the contestants could have more direct control over their product. This would also make it easier for those who know how to teach those who would like to know.
In any event, I’m thankful to retired county agent Calvin Willis and Derek Dawson who coordinate the many details of this show.
Here’s a video playlist:
Videos: 63rd Annual Lowndes County Ham and Eggs Show 2013-02-20
Videos by Gretchen Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE),
Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia.