The Charlottesville 29

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Tag: JM Stock Provisions

2019 Dish of the Year: JM Stock Cville Ham Biscuit

If food writing could shed one word from its lexicon, there would be few better candidates than “perfect”, and its derivative “perfectly.”

For one thing, the term is so vague that it rarely means more than “very enyoyable.” To describe a dish as “perfect” or “cooked perfectly” inevitably leaves readers wondering how the writer prefers the dish. If a writer says French fries were “cooked perfectly,” does she like them crispy or soft? Heavy or light salt? Thick or thin? Ridged or smooth? Skin or bare? Twice cooked or thrice? In a more extreme example, “the liver was perfect” may mean one thing when written by a food blogger, and another thing altogether if the author is Hannibal Lecter.

With sleight of hand, “perfect” seeks to sneak the square peg of objectivity into the round hole of subjectivity. Yet, there is no Platonic Ideal of a dish towards which chefs are striving, or could ever reach. Rather, a chef’s task is simply to apply heat and other techniques to enhance the flavor of things we eat. We are all wired differently, and so enjoyment of a finished product can vary from one person to the next.

That said, if there is any food which a writer could be forgiven for describing as perfect, it is the Cville Ham Biscuit at JM Stock Provisions. The story of the Charlottesville butcher shop’s iconic biscuit tells how, over time, a team of passionate and patient food artisans  developed the rare dish where further improvement seems inconceivable.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

“Needs” may overstate the reasons JM Stock first created its ham biscuit. But, several objectives did converge to give it life.

A primary purpose was to sell coffee. Shortly before JM Stock sold its first biscuit, it had just introduced to Charlottesville Lamplighter Coffee — a young Richmond-based roaster whose philosophy aligned so closely with JM Stock that the butcher wanted to see them succeed. “They were sourcing beans the right way – direct, fair trade, and they were doing really nice roasting,” says JM Stock co-founder Matt Greene. While JM Stock wanted to support Lamplighter in Charlottesville, early sales lagged. A food option in the morning, they thought, might drive coffee sales. One idea was pie. That didn’t work. Another was biscuits.

A second objective was to sell ham. JM Stock buys entire hogs at a time and breaks them down in-house. While popular cuts like pork chops sell quickly, butchers must find other uses for less popular parts. Coming in at 30lbs a piece, legs are a particularly tough sell. JM Stock’s main way to do this is to make ham, but they had found that even ham sales could not keep pace with sales of other parts of the pig. “We had all these hams,” says Greene, “and we didn’t know what to do with them.”

These objectives notwithstanding, most of all Matt Greene was hungry for biscuits.

A Christmas Story

The JM Stock ham biscuit story begins on December 24, 2014.

‘Twas the morning before Christmas and Greene’s stomach was stirring. “I had a hankering for some biscuits,” says Greene. Besides, it was Christmas Eve, and JM Stock wanted to do something nice for its customers. So, they made biscuits.

For the ones made that day, there was no ham. Instead, with a surplus of butternut squash in the shop, they made butternut squash jam to spread on the biscuits. That was it.

The initial biscuit recipe came from Ean Bancroft, a chef who worked at JM Stock at the time, and has since relocated to Atlanta. From there, the recipe evolved over several months of tweaking and honing by Bancroft and others in the shop. Cut the baking powder in half. Cut the baking soda altogether. Buttermilk vs. whole milk. One buttermilk source vs. another.

“We just kept dialing it in until we got a product that we felt was bulletproof,” says Greene. “As little room for human error as possible.”

Though Greene and co-founder James Lum III sold JM Stock last year to Calder Kegley, the shop continues to make fresh biscuits every morning, and the bullet-proof process has not changed. The task of biscuit making falls each day to whoever happens to be opening the shop. To save time, they combine dry ingredients the night before, so that all that remains to be done the next day is add buttermilk, mix it, roll it, cut out the biscuits, pop them in the oven, and glaze them with butter right before they are done.

The Ham

You can’t have a great ham biscuit without great ham. JM Stock uses its own tasso ham, which was created by meat wizard Alex Import, who has been with the shop since day one. Import has helped JM Stock win several national awards for his charcuterie, including a Best Charcuterie award for the tasso ham itself from the Good Food Awards.

Import’s two-week process for the tasso ham begins with the best product he can find, like Autumn Olive Farms pigs. He removes a whole ham from the bone and breaks it into three muscle groups: top round, sirloin tip, and bottom round. Next, he immerses the cuts in his own brine of water, salt, sugar, chile de arbol, Aleppo pepper, and garlic, pumping the liquid into the meat as well, so the outside does not brine more quickly than the inside.

Following a ten day brine comes a two day dry-cure in a Tasso rub, again Import’s recipe: paprika, chiles, bay leaf, coriander, dried oregano, and dried marjoram, which helps give the final product a flavorful crust. Finally, the ham is smoked for eight hours.

Chill, and slice the ham to order. Pile it high on a biscuit, and add a touch of honey and Texas Pete hot sauce. Voila. The JM Stock CVille Ham Biscuit.

The Cville Ham Biscuit

Last year a panel of food historians, chefs, and others embarked on a search for Charlottesville’s signature dish. After much research and discussion, the panel found it: the Cville Ham Biscuit.

One reason cited was the ham biscuit’s prevalence:  

In Charlottesville, ham biscuits are wherever you turn: from the humblest dives to the most sophisticated restaurants, and everywhere in between. We find them in country stores, gas stations, butchers, farms, church suppers, picnics, cookouts, weddings, funerals, coat pockets, and car seats. We eat them to celebrate, we eat them to mourn, and we eat them for no particular reason at all.

Another reason is that Charlottesville makes such good ones. JM Stock’s biscuits have a particular following. While the biscuits were initially meant to increase the flow of ham through the shop, JM Stock now must order supplemental hams just to meet biscuit demand. The shop sells roughly 50 biscuits per weekday, and even more on weekends. Of the 2.5-3 whole hogs the shop receives each week, plus 2-3 supplemental hams, two thirds of all ham meat leaves the shop on a biscuit.

The 2019 Dish of the Year

Fat. Salt. Sugar. Spice. The composition is common. What is less common is the amount of time and thought the JM Stock team devoted to the details of each component. The result is a Cville Ham Biscuit that stands out even among our area’s stellar bounty.

A common reaction to trying JM Stock’s ham biscuit for the first time is to immediately declare it the best verson ever. During the panel’s survey of area chefs for their thoughts on Charlottesville’s signature dish, one top chef wrote: “After eating JM Stock’s ham biscuit the other day, I might say that it’s the signature dish of the universe.”

Indeed, even if you could travel throughout the universe, you could not find a ham biscuit better than the 2019 Dish of the Year: JM Stock’s Cville Ham Biscuit. Some might call it perfect.

The JM Stock Cville Ham Biscuit, as captured by the one-and-only Tom McGovern

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JM Stock Provisions Auction: Biscuits and Butchers

Stock

Here is your chance to experience JM Stock Provisions like you never have before, while helping to feed the area’s hungry: The Charlottesville 29 Artisan Auctions. As one of the artisans of Prime 109’s August 20 Celebration of Charlottesville Restaurants, JM Stock has created a once-in-a-lifetime experience for whoever pledges the highest donation to The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. Thanks to the generosity of JM Stock, the entire winning bid goes directly to the food bank. And, thanks to the efficiency of the food bank, each dollar donated creates four meals for the area’s hungry.

The JM Stock signature experience for The Charlottesville 29 Artisan Auctions:

Biscuits and Butchers

JM Stock may be best known for two things: biscuits and butchers, and the auction winner will receive both.

Many consider JM Stock’s ham biscuits the best ever version of Charlottesville’s signature Cville Ham Biscuits. The auction winner will enjoy an entire year of JM Stock’s ham biscuits anytime they want, up to twelve per month. Just walk into JM Stock twelve times each month, and pick up the ham biscuit of your dreams. Or, pick up your month’s dozen all at once, whichever you prefer.

Plus, the winner and nine friends will receive a private modern butchery class from JM Stock’s expert artisan butchers on the craft of sustainable pork production. Many of us never stop to think about how pork products wind up as neatly packaged cuts in market displays. Where do they come from? In a hands-on class about the basics of pig butchery, the auction winner’s group will learn about the various cuts and preparations, as well as what it takes to produce JM Stock’s Autumn Olive Farms pork from start to finish. Throughout the evening, the group will also enjoy plenty of adult beverages and snacks, including JM Stock’s award-winning charcuterie, sausage, and some of the butcher’s favorite specialty cuts.

It’s the ultimate JM Stock experience: Biscuits and Butchers.

Note: Biscuits are not transferable. The auction winner must pick up the biscuits in person. For the class, the auction winner will schedule the experience on a mutually convenient evening with JM Stock, from 7:30 – 9:30 pm.

Bidding

Place your bids now by email at charlottesville29@gmail.com. Bidding ends August 20 at Prime 109’s Celebration of Charlottesville Restaurants. Regular updates of the leading bid will be posted below.

Current Bid: $1,500

Best Thing I Ate All Year 2018

Each December we celebrate the Charlottesville food year by asking: what was the best thing you ate all year? Here are the picks from 20172016 and 2015. And, below are this year’s picks in our food industry’s annual tribute to Charlottesville’s bounty. Meanwhile, check back here next week for The Charlottesville 29 pick for 2018 Dish of the Year.

Jascon Becton (MarieBette) and Mitchell Beerens (Lampo and Prime 109)

Grilled Pork Steak at Oakhart Social.

Becton: “I love pork in most of its various forms and the grilled pork steak at Oakhart Social is a pretty phenomenal iteration. It is perfectly cooked and the flavors perfectly balanced. It reminded me a little of the flavors from Filipino BBQ but with pineapple. Delicious!”

Beerens: “Hands down, the best thing I ate this year is the pork blade steak at Oakhart Social. I’ve spoken with many local chefs about it and they all love it. Grilled blade steak with grilled pineapple, candy onion, cilantro, jalapeño, and peanuts. So so simple and so so good.”

pork steak

Melissa Close-Hart (Junction)

Ricotta Ravioli at Fellini’s and Parker House Rolls at Prime 109. “I had plenty of great dishes this year, but the best of the best is a tie. And both were at special occasion meals. Matthew and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary at Fellini’s with Chris and Sarah Humphrey taking great care of us. Out of the many amazing dishes, the stand out was a house made ricotta ravioli, with local butternut squash sauce, sautéed apples, and toasted pumpkin seeds. Some of my favorite flavors of Fall in one dish. The dish was a perfect balance of delicate pasta, rich savory flavors and a touch of sweet. The next dish came at my birthday dinner at Prime 109. The whole team went above and beyond to make my night special and the entire meal was fantastic, but what I can’t stop thinking about is their Parker House Rolls. I’m such a bread eater and these rolls are to die for. I ordered a second round before the first were even finished. I actually see myself stopping in just for an app and a whole pan of rolls just for myself. Don’t ask for me to share, because it won’t happen.”

Parker

Ryan Collins (Little Star)

Shrimp Toast at Oakhart Social.  “Super simple dish of perfectly griddled Pullman loaf from Albemarle Baking Company topped with a simple salad of poached rock shrimp, creme fresh dressing, pickled mustard seed and chives.  This summer I started every meal at Oakhart with it.”

Jose de Brito (Fleurie)

Chocolate Croissant at Albemarle Baking Company. “I did not have much time this year to dine out. Between the time in our house in Little Washington and my work at Fleurie, I am always busy. But before our weekly drive back to Washington my wife always stops by Albermale Baking Company to stock up on bread and viennoiserie. Their pain au chocolat is as good as any good pain au chocolat back in France. Voila c’est tout, good people!”

Pain au chocolat

Laura Fonner (Duner’s)

Green Pea Kofta with Feta Lebneh and Cucumber Salad at Peloton Station. “This place seems like a sports bar but the food has been elevated to a different level. Not your average sports bar food. Well thought out snacks and sandwiches, but this particular appetizer is one of my favorite flavor profiles: Middle Eastern. Traditionally done with ground meat and full of spices. Without meat, Chef Curtis was able to accomplish all of the same flavors and textures as the real deal. Great crunchy texture to compliment the beautifully spiced inside. The thick yogurt and pickled salad is the perfect accompaniment. It’s just all around a wonderful bite!”

kofta

Craig Hartman (BBQ Exchange)

Duck Plato del Dia at MAS Tapas. “Mas Tapas always makes me and Donna happy. The Jamon Iberico de Bellota is something that I could eat every minute of every day. Their puck plato del dia that was seasonally paired with fresh cherries and Vinagre de Jerez was beautifully prepared and super delicious. Mike Ketola and his crew (Keaton Contini) always go above and beyond to make us feel special and loved.”

duckmas

Christian Kelly (Maya)

Butter and a Baguette from Albemarle Baking Company. “As I’ve been thinking back over what I have eaten this year, it has been the simple foods that have really spoken to me. About a month ago, I texted my friend Gerry Newman of Albemarle Baking Company to say I had just eaten close to an entire baguette with butter. Way too much butter in one sitting but I was, ‘on a roll’ (ouch! Is that even funny?). Crispy, crunchy, spongy, sublime.”

bread and butter

Nancy McCarthy (Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie)

Boat Noodle Soup at Thai Cuisine and Noodle House. “I’m sure I’m not the only one to choose this, but the boat noodle soup with fresh tofu at Thai Cuisine and Noodle House is my go to dish. I love the slight crunch of the Chinese broccoli and the fermented hot sauce complemented by their salty sweet bone broth, basil, and of course rice noodles. Comfort food at its best: satiating but doesn’t leave you feeling stuffed. Add on a Thai Beef salad with toasted rice and a bowl of P7 for my husband and that’s a solid lunch date.”

boatnoodles

Loren Mendosa (Lampo and Prime 109)

Celery Root Pappardelle at C&O. “Matt Boisvert made me and Emily a truly stellar meal at C&O. One of the courses was particularly impressive, though: Dean’s celery root pappardelle. So hard  — though getting easier — to find vegan foods that people really put love and attention into. The meal was one of my favorites of my life.”

Jenny Peterson (Paradox Pastry)

Ricotta Toast at Oakhart Social. “Ahhh! Perfect. And, maybe even more surprising, the gin and tonic slushie. Because it was blisteringly hot and Todd told me to get it, but I hesitated because I don’t like gin and tonic.  Well…. I liked THAT gin and tonic. Whoa.”

ricotta

Ian Redshaw (Lampo and Prime 109)

Lamb Ribs at Oakhart Social. “The first time I had the lamb ribs at Oakhart, it was straight up like tasting Mr. Holland’s opus. Tristan really nailed it with this dish.”

lamb ribs

Ivan Rekosh (ZoCaLo)

Gazpacho Anadaluz at Quality Pie. “One of the most delicious gazpachos I’ve ever tasted. It could have been the beautiful fall day or the super friendly service that made it so great but I think it was the simple and straightforward preparation that really showcased the tomato flavor. Tomas perfectly balanced the sweetness and acidity of the tomatoes. Paired with a truffle grilled cheese and you have a winning lunch!”

gazpacho

Wilson Richey (Ten Course Hospitality)

Bavette at Prime 109.  “Prime has been a tremendous addition to the eating experiences in this town. There are so many reasons to dine there, the burger is incredible, the ambiance is gorgeous, and the drinks delicious. But one of my favorite reasons to go is the steak, specifically the bavette! This is my favorite cut of those I have sampled yet. In Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest, M. Gustave says: ‘When you’re young, it’s all filet steak, but as the years go by, you have to move on to the cheap cuts. Which is fine with me, because I like those. More flavorful, or so they say.’ I love the quote and share the sentiment. Perhaps it explains why I love bavette so much. Personally, I don’t get anything with the steak. I love all the sides and accouterments, but when it comes to steak, give it to me well seasoned and perfectly cooked and I want for nothing. At Prime it is both.”

PK Ross (Splendora’s)

Kumamoto Oysters at The Alley Light. “The best thing I ate all year is also the simplest. The Alley Light, way back in January, had Kumamoto oysters on special. Dollop of caviar and paper thin lemon slices, with the absolute coldest vodka to pair. Clean, fresh, but decadent.”

Kumamoto

John Shanesy (Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar)

Ham Biscuit with Gulden’s Spicy Brown Mustard from JM Stock Provisions. “Family tradition when my brothers and father visit. Better housemade biscuits or ham can be found nowhere in Charlottesville. ‘Nuff Said.” (Note: Shanesy takes the biscuits home to add the mustard himself.)

biscuit

Angelo Vangelopoulos (Ivy Inn)

German Chocolate Cake Ice Cream with Donut Holes at Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie. “Michael hosted an Oktoberfest dinner at Dr. Ho’s, a four course chef’s menu tasting. We were stuffed beyond capacity, but still found room to eat the dessert, ‘German Chocolate Cake’ Ice Cream with donut holes. It was worth the suffering of being over served and earns its place as the best thing I ate all year. (You might have to make a special request, I don’t think it’s on the menu!)”

angelochocolate

Tristan Wraight (Oakhart Social)

Tasting Menu at Back 40. “The pea salad with perfectly sweet and fresh peas was out of this world. The tempura fried baby carrots with ramp kimchi was inspiring. Tucker really knows how to make veggies do what they do and just lets them shine. That is skillful and confident. It was pretty heart-breaking when they shut Back 40 down.”

Tucker Yoder 

Potatoes from Sweet Greens Farm. “Some beautiful end of the season potatoes from Sweet Greens Farm. Roasted, with butter and flaky salt.”

potatoes