We spent this past weekend in Chattanooga, TN visiting a very good friend of Amy’s and on the way back we stopped at Benton’s Country Ham in Madisonville, TN. Benton’s is perhaps the most famous, most sought after bacon and country ham producer in the United States. Their pork is featured at the finest and most expensive restaurants in the country starting with Per Se and working your way down. Yet Benton’s could not be more unassuming. Many years ago when Paul Prudhomme ruled Chef-dom and Andouille sausage was all the rage, a butcher shop near my hometown was very much sought after, Cox’s Meat Market. Cox’s, in Reserve, LA, was a butcher shop through and through and I loved going in there. Dale Cox always had a bloody apron on and often he was in the middle of pushing a side of beef across his band saw. He sold pork, beef chicken and his own sausage and tasso ham that he smoked in the back. And get this, his beef was always grass-fed which he got from a supplier in east Texas. And this was way back in the 70’s. His building wasn’t much to look at but his business was very robust and his Andouille sausage was a thing of beauty. Benton’s reminds me of Cox’s. On our recent visit a well-dressed couple walked in and was shocked at how rustic (she whispered “dirty”) the place was. What were you expecting lady, Whole Foods? Allan Benton’s Smoky Mountain Hams is in a small town, about a two hour drive from Chattanooga or an hour from Knoxville on US 411. If you ever want to visit, I would recommend starting with Chattanooga over Knoxville. I love Chattanooga, it’s a very cool town, a bit funkier and more eclectic than Knoxville. Would you like a tour of Benton’s?
This is a post I’ve made for my Greenville Tech Culinary students so we may discuss the origins of spices and the varieties of different