Whenever a holiday approaches, I often find my taste buds yearning for ham. Christmas morning, while characterized by presents and a roaring fire in the fireplace, is most identifiable by the wafting smell of ham in the oven that creeps up the stairs and into my room. It's almost like an alarm clock that only works a few days out of the year - but it's by far the best to wake up to.
Now I am not just referring to any generic ham. No, I am talking about one ham and one ham only: the smoked ham from the wonderful Bisson's Meat Market in Topsham. To this day, I attest that I have not had a smoked ham that rivals their product. Juicy, chewy, tender, and flavorful, the first slices are always awaited by my family with the eagerness of a pack of hungry dogs. We hover until fed.
If ever there were a quintessential Maine business it's Bisson's. It truly is a family affair, with brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, grandparents and parents all working together. So when you bite into their delectable meats, not only are you getting quite possibly the tastiest meat in Maine, you're simultaneously supporting a family that has devoted generations (the farm dates back to 1929) to producing good, local food.
I spoke briefly with Priscilla Pollock, a family member, amidst the Easter rush this morning:
Q: What is the most popular product for Easter?
A: "The ham and the leg of lamb. Those are the two biggest sellers right now. For St. Patrick's Day last week he had done over 800 pounds of corned beef. Sold almost all of it. We received so many compliments on it. A couple of ladies came in and were just raving that they had never eaten such good corned beef."
Q: How do you prepare the ham?
A: "We do all our own smoking. Uncle Arthur uses a brown sugar cure in the hams. Years ago hams used to be really salty. These are not salty at all; they are really good."
Q: What other products do you offer?
A: "We make our own sausages, kielbasa and pepperoni, and homemade meat pies - chicken, beef, pork, and salmon. He does his own corned beef for sandwiches and oven-roasted turkey. We also produce our own milk and butter - it's raw milk, not pasteurized. Once you've had it you wont' go back. Plus, it's so much better for you. A couple of doctors send some of their patients over here to get the meats and milk."
Q: Are all your products raised at your farm?
A: "We raise most of the meat here, but we get some of the pork out of Canada, because we can't possibly raise enough. Mostly the pigs we raise here are for BBQ. In the summer we rent out BBQ pits and sell whole pigs. Every weekend they are gone."
Recipes: Put a 15-20 pound ham in the oven and cook for 3 hours at 350 degrees. When it's done, cover it with a mixture of homemade cranberry sauce and maple syrup. Let it sit for 45 minutes to an hour before eating (if you can resist). Food writer Kathy Gunst has a great leftover recipe
perfect for spring.
Bisson's Meat Market (112 Meadow Rd., Topsham, 207-725-7215) is open five days a week. Tuesday - Friday 8:30A.M.-5:30P.M.; Saturday 8:30A.M-4:00P.M. Closed Sundays and Mondays.