I'll Bite

Virginia ham maker shut down by fire

A massive fire destroyed the smokehouse for Edwards Country Ham in Surry, Va.
A massive fire destroyed the smokehouse for Edwards Country Ham in Surry, Va. Evan Jones/Sussex-Surry Dispatch

Correction: My apologies. The picture should have been credited to the Sussex-Surry Dispatch.

Fans of country ham, the long-aged, salt-cured delicacy of the South, were saddened Tuesday by the news that a massive fire has shut down S. Wallace Edwards & Sons, a popular country ham maker in Surry County, Va.

The Associated Press reported that the smokehouse that held the company’s hams was destroyed in the fire, shutting down the company indefinitely. The company, which dates to 1926, makes country ham and sausages, and recently had branched into making Surryano, a version of the revered jamon Serrano, a dry-cured ham made in Spain.

No one was hurt in the fire, which involved several fire departments and burned for several hours. Some reports said the fire followed an explosion in the smokehouse. According to the Virginia Pilot newspaper, the fire broke out during the busiest time in the curing season, when hams are being salted and smoked before being hung for aging.

Edwards is one of a dwindling number of slow-cured ham makers, along with Allan Benton of Tennessee and Vannoy Hams of West Jefferson, N.C. Its hams have a following among chefs around the country, including Sean Brock’s Husk in Charleston, and are sold by Dean & Deluca and Williams-Sonoma, as well as by mail order. Edwards also has won a Good Food Award, which recognizes high-quality local-food producers.

Kathleen Purvis: 704-358-5236, @kathleenpurvis