The sweetness of the maple syrup paired with the saltiness of the country ham creates the perfect sweet and salty balance that makes this cake oh so good.
- 1 24-ounce bag Midstate Mills Tenda-Bake Maple Burst pancake mix
- 2½-3 cups buttermilk
- ¼ cup sifted cocoa
HAM AND REDEYE GRAVY
- 2 heaping cups Phillips Brothers country ham trimmings
- 1 cup Larry’s Beans espresso coffee, brewed strong
- 1 cup vegetable shortening
- ¼ cup butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1¼ cups cooked Phillips Brothers country ham trimmings
REDEYE GRAVY DRIZZLE
- 1½ cups sifted powdered sugar
- ½ cup butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons Appalachian maple syrup
- ½ cup redeye gravy
- ¼ cup Carolina Nut Cracker pecan pieces, toasted and chopped
- In large bowl, stir together pancake mix, buttermilk and cocoa. 2. Cook pancakes in skillet according to package directions, making large-size cake layers about 8 inches in diameter. Let cool.
HAM AND REDEYE GRAVY
- Heat skillet on medium-high heat. Add country ham pieces with about 1 cup water to hot pan, and cook until water evaporates.
- Once evaporated, continue cooking ham bits until crispy, about 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Remove ham with slotted spoon, and set aside.
- Add 1 cup strong coffee to ham drippings, and stir with whisk to scrape up any bits to make redeye gravy.
- Bring to a boil, and cook several minutes to reduce by half.
- Strain through coffee filter to remove dark bits, and cool.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed, cream shortening and butter. Add almond extract.
- Gradually mix in sugar, 1 cup at a time, scraping sides and bottom of bowl several times.
- Add milk and syrup, and continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.
- With spatula, fold 1¼ cups country ham bits into frosting.
- Spread between pancake layers and on top, letting some drip down sides of cake.
- Put all drizzle ingredients except pecans into a microwave-safe bowl.
- Heat in 30-second intervals, stirring after each, until blended and pourable.
- Cool slightly; drizzle over top of frosted cake.
- Scatter toasted pecan pieces and remaining ham on top of cake.
Appalachian Maple Syrup at Pierce Fruit and Produce
Ken Pierce, who runs Pierce Fruit and Produce out of the State Farmers Market in Raleigh, has someone for everything. For barbecue sauce, for instance, he has George’s in Nashville, Grendeddy Dave’s in Wake Forest, Mel’s in Raleigh, and many others.
Pierce sells just about everything, and he remembers just about every name. His maple syrup comes from one of two people — Sam Ritter out of Charlotte or Lynda Justice out of Flat Rock. Both regularly take their maple syrup straight from the North Carolina mountains and send it to Pierce to sell.
Pierce Fruit and Produce
1225 Farmers Market Drive
Raleigh, N.C. 27603
Phillips Brothers Country Ham
If you wake up today and want a whole country ham for dinner tonight, you’d better talk to your yesterday self and give him what for. Because it doesn’t work like that.
Country ham requires planning. Country ham requires patience. Country ham requires that you — now hang on for this — order ahead. Country ham is something you wait for.
This isn’t like in a doctor’s office, not like watching a close basketball game that’s going down to the wire, not like any of those awful waits where you have to wonder, “What’s going to happen when I’m done waiting?” No, this is a wait with the same old outcome, every time. And, yes, it sure is salty.
In the 1940s, Talmadge Phillips came back home to Randolph County after fighting in World War II with the United States Navy. Twenty-one years old, a veteran, and needing work. He met a man in Asheboro named Earl Cummings. Mr. Cummings had a shop where he wrapped meat and quick-froze it and sold it. Mr. Cummings hired Phillips as his first employee. Phillips worked and waited.
In 1962, Mr. Cummings got sick and sold the business to Phillips. Phillips changed the name to Phillips Brothers Country Ham. They did hams the right way, the country way, the long way, and people loved it.
Then grocery stores became bigger, and customers bought their hams there, country or not. Some folks lost the taste for that salt altogether. They eat city ham.
That salt is what makes it, though. That salt is the traditional cure.
Phillips Brothers buys its hams from eastern North Carolina farms, puts the hams in a cooler for about 45 days, dries them, then covers them in that salt and hangs them for about 120 days.
“To get a good ham with more flavor,” says Dianne Phillips Craven, who runs the business now, “it needs to stay in that curing stage.”
The Phillips Brothers process is a little faster than the real old-fashioned way. Throughout our state, people have ugly, old shacks with ugly, old, moldy hams that hang for a year before they’re ready to eat. One whole year between killing and eating. People might call Southerners slow. But in all that time Southerners spend doing things the long way, they find peace in patience, an accord between time and wants, an awareness that we can’t have everything we desire right now.
Why’d we ever think of such a thing as putting salt on ham to keep it? Because it’s hot down here. We haven’t always had refrigeration. That salt extracts water, which doesn’t allow for microbes to grow, and that was the way to cure a ham before refrigeration. That salt thwarted that Southern heat.
That’s why it’s ours, this country ham.
Dianne is Talmadge’s daughter. Talmadge is still living, 85 years old, and he still helps with the sausage-making part of the business. Dianne and her husband run Phillips Brothers Country Ham with their son. They sell mostly sliced meat now, and business isn’t easy because the cost of government regulations keeps rising. It’s harder and harder to sell pork that meets the standards of code.
But people are starting to return to this down-home shop in Asheboro. They left for the grocery store for years, and Phillips Brothers waited. And now, all of a sudden, people want to know where their meat comes from again.
“They say what goes around comes around,” Dianne says.
Yes, they sure do say that, don’t they?
1523 South Fayetteville Street
Asheboro, N.C. 27205
Other North carolina Products Used
Midstate Mills Tenda-Bake Maple Burst Pancake Mix
Carolina Nut Cracker Pecans
Michael Graff is the senior editor of Our State magazine. His most recent stories were “Jacksonville’s Heroes” and “Pure Pinehurst” (January 2012).