Tess on the Town: Southern style ham star of this Thanksgiving
Randy Jones’ life and philosophy was shaped at the knees of his grandmother and great-grandmother.
The hours spent in the kitchen with the two women formed the base for his career. The Virginia ladies in the kitchen cooking together was something to behold, he said, warmth creeping into his voice.
Jones, executive chef at Red Canyon Grille, shared with me some of the memories he has of Thanksgiving at his family’s home in the Tidewater region of Virginia.
Growing up in Hampton and Yorktown, he was never far from an estuary or a bay. He’d go down to the dock with a pole and a bunch of chicken necks and bring home a bag full of blue crab.
Although seafood played a big part in meals, “pork was king, all different kinds of hams, slabs of bacon and fresh pork” were often on the table, he said.
His grandmother, Mary, never had cans of vegetables in her house. All the vegetables came from the garden. What she didn’t grow herself came from trading with neighbors who had a patch.
The kitchen table in late summer was spread thick with all manner of garden vegetables, and the kitchen became like a huge canning factory, he said.
“Grandma kind of raised me through the kitchen door. The nurturing left me wanting to make something you want to eat,” he said.
On the Jones’ Thanksgiving table, the standards usually included Smithfield country ham, from Isle of Wright County in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia.
Famous in the South and beyond, the dry, salt-cured ham tastes like prosciutto when properly done, Jones said. (See the recipe accompanying this column.)
Dressing was made with Chesapeake Bay oysters and crusty cornbread baked the night before and left out on the counter to get crispy overnight, he said.
Side dishes were corn, beans, potato salad, gumbo, homemade pickles and pimentos, biscuits and sourdough bread.
Jones keeps a scrapbook made for him by his aunt with handwritten family recipes and corresponding pictures to remind him of his family history and the holiday meals they shared.
Randy, 31, and his wife, Rebecca, came from the same hometown, so their love of slow-cooking, fresh fare and Southern cooking is shared.
Today, the young couple shares their Thanksgiving with neighbors and friends in something resembling a block party/potluck in their downtown Grand Junction neighborhood.
After the repast, the crowd gathers around and listens to bluegrass music, courtesy of their picker friends.
One last note: Red Canyon Grille at The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa hosts Southern food night on Fridays for $12.75. Call 243-7736 for the weekly menu.
WHAT ELSE IS NEW: Carlson Vineyards hosts its 20th holiday open house with free tastings from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Nov. 25–27.
Specialty offerings include warm cherry wine rimmed with Enstrom dark chocolate and hot peach cobbler in a mug with peach wine.
See carlsonvineyards.com for details.
QUOTE: “We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” — Thornton Wilder
Send tips and ideas to Tess.Furey@gj sentinel.com.