Darden's Smokehouse

Hammin' It Up

Dee Dee and Tommy in the Smokehouse

    Here at Dardens, we've been smoking hams since the early 1950s. We smoke about 1,000 hams a year. If you visit the smokehouse, you'll remember your visit with every bite of our ham. Darden hams throw a flavor party with every bite. It's addictive. It's irresistable. It's a thin slice of hog heaven.

DeeDee & Tommy in the Smokehouse

    End of January, Beginning of February - The day starts off when the hams are brought back to the smokehouse from the Smithfield Hams Plant. Temperatures need to be not too warm or too cold, just right is critical to the success of the curing process.

Hams Arrive to the Smokehouse

Hams arrive at the Smokehouse

Unloading the Hams

    Johnny, Bill and other neighbors unload and move the hams into the smokehouse; each ham weighs between 18-25 pounds.

Handing off the Hams

    Johnny and Bill roll the hams in a box full of salt, rubbing and coating the entire ham evenly with salt. Salt draws the water from the ham and reduces the weight of the ham approximately 20%.

Salting The Hams

Salting the Hams

Laying the hams

    The hams are laid very carefully on their sides on a pallet. The position of the ham determines the shape, a perfect ham is shapely, not too round, not too flat. It should have a little bit of fat and a nice pink color when sliced.

Laying the hams

    Country bacon comes from cured sidemeat. These pieces have twine attached for hanging after the seasoning. Gotta get that twine just right to keep the ham from slipping from the rafters.

 Salted Slabs

Salted Sidemeat

    The most labor intensive part of the ham business is the washing the hams and pepper coating them. They are scrubbed in hot water and all the salt is washed off. It's a messy operation, we don't take pictures.

Peppered Slabs

    Sidemeat that is going to become bacon is covered in a mix of pepper and 20 Mule Team Borax and then hung to age.

Peppered Slabs

    After the salt is washed off, Tommy Darden ties a loop of string to the end of the ham hock so that it can be hung from the rafters.

Tying String on the ham ends

Stringing the Hams

Hams hanging from the rafters

    The hams cure as they hang from the rafters for about 40 days and nights.

Hams hanging out

    Next, the hams are smoked with hickory and apple wood during the rainy days of April and May. After the smoking, the ham ages to perfection.... "We don't like to slice, sell or cook any hams until after July 4th." says Tommy Darden.


Ham Biscuit

    The Ham Biscuit, a quintessential Southern staple and treat; tender slices of hickory and apple wood smoked Darden ham resting comfortably in a proper biscuit.


    If you are interested in serving Darden ham for special holidays, celebrations or feasts, call early to reserve. Call in October to reserve a Thanksgiving or Christmas ham; reserve Easter hams in March. We don't ship yet, but we'll get there sometime.

For the folks that like to be dressed in style, we have a fantastic selection of Darden Country Store logo t-shirts, sweatshirts, ball caps and aprons. Perfect gifts anytime. Just like our ham. Perfect - anytime.


Ham Platter

How to cook a ham

  • Boiling method: First, you need to scrub the cured ham in hot water with a stiff brush, then soak overnight in cold water. Place the ham - skin side down, in a boiler of water large enough for the ham to float. Bring the water to a slight simmer. Cook the ham about 25 minutes per pound adding water as necessary to keep the ham covered. Once the internal temperature reaches 160°, the ham is cooked. Move the ham to a carving board and let it cool down a bit before removing the skin. The drippings are excellent as a flavor for vegetables.

  • Oven method: First, you need to scrub the cured ham in hot water with a stiff brush, then soak overnight in cold water. Then, wrap the ham in heavy duty foil, making a boat out of the foil on the bottom. Pour 5 cups of water in the foil and place in a 400° oven on a tray or shallow pan. Cook for 20 minutes, then turn off the oven for three hours. Turn oven on to 400° and cook for 20 minutes, then turn oven off and let ham hang out in the oven for at least 8 hours. Do not open the oven until the end of the cooking period.

  • These recipes were modified slightly from The Smithfield Cookbook, a fine traditional Southern cookbook specializing in the cuisine of the Isle of Wight from the Woman's Club of Smithfield.



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