The drivers covered a lot of ground. The first place, Benton's, is in eastern TN, between Chattanooga and Knoxville. The other three are in western KY. roughly between Nashville TN and St. Louis MO, centered around Madisonville.
Into the cooler went nitrate-free bacon, cotton sacks of smoked breakfast sausage, packages of sliced ham and 99-cent packets of ham scraps to season soups and beans, along with jars of chowchow and sweet corn relish. We drove past more tree carnage to Trigg County, home of the Trigg County Country Ham Festival every October.
If Scott’s is Grandpa’s Sleepy Holler, Broadbent’s is Country Ham Inc. The high-tech, two-year-old facility and store is a Big Mac’s throw from I-24. The gift shop sells regional temptations — Derby-Pie from Louisville, Kentucky bourbon balls — to travelers who might not have a cooler. For the rest of us, there’s ham, thick-cut bacon and sausage for every taste, all made on premises.
The owners, Ronny and Beth Drennan, made furniture until they bought the business in 1999. Along with it came a 100-year-old country ham recipe, which calls for the hams to be hand-rubbed with salt, sugar, nitrates and dry honey, and then boiled and boned. Nowadays, the Drennans hang the hams from netted bags in pristine white rooms for up to nine months. “Some are pushing a year,” Ronny said. The result is less salty but also less complex than its rustic cousins.
“We sell them some ham,” Ronny said of Momofuku as some truckers strolled into the shop. “I don’t know a lot about ’em.” Actually, they sell more to gourmet groceries, like Stinky Bklyn and Zingerman’s in Michigan.