She didn't want her family's tradition to die. Now, she's sharing their craft nationwide.

Posted at 9:59 PM, Nov 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-12 12:45:35-05

SURRY COUNTY, Va. -- There are some traditions that are instilled in future generations to make sure family history doesn't disappear with time.

A Surry County woman who long remembered her family's smokehouse decided she needed to make sure her family's smoked hams didn't become lost in history.

"This tradition has been in this area for 300-plus years," Jason Fuss with Creekside Smokehouse said. "We hang the hams in here. They're freshly salted so we'll hang them in here to cure for a week or so before we start smoking."

How this family's tradition is spreading smoky flavor countrywide

Jason said that there's an art to smoking, especially when it comes to smoking country hams.

Dale Fuss has spent her entire life in Surry County but after moving away from the family farm, there was simply something missing. She decided to ask her father if he would teach her how to cure hams if she built a smokehouse.

"Number one, it was a family tradition and number two, nobody does it this way anymore. It's a dying art. Nobody smokes ham like this anymore," Dale said.

In 2006, her dad agreed to teach her the Jones' family tradition.

How this family's tradition is spreading smoky flavor countrywide

"Oh, that was just like me being a child again on the farm. And it was the closest thing to Heaven," Dale said.

Dale said that there are a number of secrets that are behind her family's legacy.

"I can't tell you what that is because I'm not going to tell you what that is but that makes ours distinct from the others," Dale said.

"This is where we got our specialized flavor because of our smoking prices and the types of wood we use, it gives our hams a unique flavor compared to everybody else's," Jason said.

The first year in business was simple.

"The first year, I bought six hams and I had two for me, two for him and the other two, I was going to give one to each of my sisters," Dale said.

However, these plans became more complicated when a few slices of ham ended up outside the family.

"The next year, we went from six to 12 and then from 12 to 20 and now we have 210 hams hanging in our smokehouse," Dale said.

It's a family tradition that has now grown into a full-fledged business.

"I never imagined it would get as big as it is now," Dale said.

The family also added two more people to the staff, including Darryl Rawlings whose knife skills will be seen on all 210 hams this year.

"Well, the secret to deboning a ham is, first of all, paying attention to the direction that the bone goes in the actual ham itself. When you're making your cuts into the meat, be careful not to cut into the whole muscle part of the ham," Rawlings explained.

How this family's tradition is spreading smoky flavor countrywide

After being cut, the hams are tied and stored in a refrigerator at 33 degrees. With one last step, they are sold.

"We take them out of the cooler and then we slice them so when they get the ham, all they have to do is put it on a platter and eat it," Dale said.

These country hams are not only made the old-fashioned way but also made with love.

"You have to love what you do. You have to love this. You have to love the art of smoking the hams, curing them. It's a lot of work, so if you don't love it, you wouldn't do it," Dale said.

Without a doubt, next year, there will be more hams hanging in the smokehouse.

"God has really blessed us with the business and the number of people that keep coming back and it's always by word of mouth because we do not advertise," Dale said.

The small Surry County business will be tasted all across the country with Dale shipping as far away as Hawaii. She also ships up and down the East Coast and she said one customer buys 14 hams every year.

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