Carroll County Foods will be bringing President Bill Clinton a taste of home today.
The Westminster-based food distributor is scheduled to present the White House kitchen staff a package of Petit-Jean hams and bacon at 10:30 a.m. The Arkansas-produced hams have been served in the governor's mansion in Little Rock for 65 years, said Petit-Jean salesman Rich McKeta.
"Apparently these have always been a favorite of President Clinton's," said Bill Dean, Carroll County Foods' sales manager.
The presidential package will contain six hams and nine 1 1/2 -pound packages of bacon, he said.
Carroll County Foods is the exclusive distributor of Petit-Jean products in the Baltimore-Washington area, Mr. Dean said. The company serves restaurants, school systems, and other food service organizations from southern Pennsylvania to northern Virginia.
An outlet store, at the company's warehouse on Route 31, is open to the public.
"The closest [Petit-Jean] distributor I know of is in New York state," Mr. Dean said. "We don't go up into New York, and I don't think they come down here."
He said his company got the Petit-Jean contract after they called the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission before the inauguration.
"We contacted them about Arkansas products because we wanted to play on that theme," he said.
Petit-Jean then contacted Carroll County Foods about carrying the product.
"They had the entrepreneurship to capitalize on the idea," Mr. McKeta said of Carroll County Foods receiving the contract. "They were the first to call."
Mr. Dean said the product is largely unknown in this area, but everyone who has tried it has liked it.
"I served it at a Super Bowl party and the people went ga-ga over it," he said. "When they [Petit-Jean] came up to show it to us, they brought one as a sample and it didn't stay around very long."
The hams' flavor is very different from what Baltimore-area consumers are used to, Mr. Dean said. Petit-Jean product information says the peppered hams are "rubbed with a carefully blended mix of brown sugar and pepper before being smoked with genuine hickory smoke."
Mr. Dean said, "It has a unique flavor, not like anything you've tasted in your life.
The hams are dry-cured, or prepared without adding extra water, Mr. Dean said.
Any time you add water to a product, it changes its flavor profile, whether it's bourbon or a smoked ham," he said. "Then you have to add substitutes to get the taste back where you want it to be."
The smoked hickory flavor is obtained naturally during the curing process, he said.
"A lot of companies get the smoked flavor by injecting it in liquid form," Mr. Dean said. "This is done the old-fashioned way."
Carroll County Foods carries Petit-Jean peppered hams, with and without the bone, and peppered bacon. Petit-Jean also sells hot dogs, lunch meats and other varieties of ham.
Mr. Dean said his company sells the bone-in ham for $3.55 a pound and the boneless ham for about $5 per pound. Both prices are for wholesale amounts at the outlet.
George's IGA stores in Finksburg and Eldersburg, Foodrite in Mount Airy and Mount Airy Locker Company are also selling the hams, he said.