Considered by many to be the premier country-cured ham, the Smithfield is said to have been so loved by Queen Victoria that she had six sent to her household every week. Although these special hams were once produced from hogs raised on a privileged diet of acorns, hickory nuts and peanuts, today's Smithfield hams come from grain-fed hogs. To be accorded the appellation of "Smithfield," the hams must be cured and processed in the area of Smithfield, Virginia. The elaborate processing includes dry-curing, seasoning, lengthy hickory smoking and aging of 6 to 12 months (sometimes up to 2 years). The result is a lean, dark-colored ham with a flavor that's rich, salty and dry. Smithfield ham can be purchased through mail order or from gourmet butcher shops or food stores. It may be served raw like prosciutto, but it's usually baked or boiled. Before being cooked, Smithfields must be soaked 12 to 24 hours to remove excess saltiness. See also ham.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.