Fatback And Country Ham


These two meats are truly a delicacy in the south. They have a lot in common seeing as how they are both heavily salted (A method of preservation), both are pork products, they are prepared the same way, and both have been a staple of Southern Tables due to their being so inexpensive and readily available. Fatback, in particular, became very popular on Southern tables during the great depression as it was often the only cut of meat that could be afforded by hungry families.

Either cut of meat can be found used as seasoning in a pot of beans, which is then torn or cut into small pieces and added back to the pot to eat along with the beans once they are fully cooked.

Fatback is a traditional dish served for New Year’s Eve in the South where we have our celebratory meal of Fatback, Greens, and Black Eyed peas, a meal believed to bring luck and wealth in the new year. Greens and black eyed peas (or field peas) received their cherished status when Northern Troops marched through our lands and took charge of all other crops and livestock as provisions for their troops, leaving greens and peas behind because they were believed to be fit only for the animals.

Most Southern or “Soul Food” restaurants in the south boast these meats on the menu. I always order Country Ham whenever we go to one of our beloved Cracker Barrel restaurants. They serve it with biscuits and fries or choices of country vegetables.

If you purchase a whole country ham, the grocer’s will slice it for you but the slices will still be rather large.
If serving it for supper, we usually cook the slices whole but if for a breakfast or brunch, served alongside biscuits, we cut the slices up into smaller pieces so that people can put them on their biscuit if they like, making a sandwich of sorts.
Both meats are traditionally cooked in a cast iron skillet, but any type of skillet will do. Place slices of meat in skillet and cook over medium heat until browned on both sides.
You don’t need to place any oil in the skillet as both of these meats tend to render a great deal of fat when cooking them. This fat is reserved, usually in tin cans or jars, for use in seasoning beans, vegetables, and putting in cornbread and other batters.
Once it is browned on both sides, remove to a paper towel lined plate and serve.
Allow grease to cool and save it to be used in another great southern recipe if you like!
A plate of fatback. Very salty and crunchy meat.
Country ham, fried up and ready to go!

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  1. Renae says

    The country ham looks delicious ! It’s my favorite. This is my first time to leave a comment but I have really been enjoying your site. I made the peach preserves a few weeks ago and they were indeed the best ever!!!

  2. Southern Plate says

    Kimberly I don’t make it at home often, either, for some reason. I tend to think of it more often in the winter time and I just HAVE to have it for breakfast on Christmas morning with homemade biscuits! Its still a lot more fun to just be able to order it and have a nice Cracker Barrel employee place it in front of you!

    Snozzberries ~GRINS~ Thank you so much!!! You are so sweet!! Now you’ve mentioned cali so I am wanting an orange, of course….

    Renae Renae, hey!! I’m so glad you did leave a comment, and equally glad you like the preserves! Are they not just the easiest and best thing on earth? Country ham is a personal favorite of mine, too!

    Thank you all so very much for reading Southern Plate, you are all so good to me!!


  3. Anonymous says

    Girl, I think we were sisters seperated at birth.. I feel like I could go right in the kitchen and cook and gab with you.. Keep up the wonderful work of spreadin the word!
    Jo in Sapulpa, Oklahoma

  4. Stephanie says

    Fatback looks a bit like bacon, only better! I just had dinner and am very full, but you’re making me hungry for some good protein-y and fatty breakfast foods – fatback, cheesy eggs, and grits? Yum!

  5. Laura says

    Fatback (or hogjaw as we call it) is sooo good. We usually only have it on New Year’s Day. I love the taste even better than bacon….extra salty. Makes me ready for New Year’s.


  6. maggie says

    thanks so much for the fudge frosting for the yellow cake recipe. it was an old recipe that my grandma use to make and i did not remember how to make it. everyone loved it. maggie – plant city , fl

  7. Su says

    Oh so this is what fatback is? The name is a little deceiving, but it really looks like larger/thicker bacon with more rind on it. I’m not a huge eater of pork, actually I don’t ever eat pork meat, but I do make the exception for some crispy bacon. I don’t think we can buy ham like this here? Or if we can I’ve never seen it.

  8. Southern Plate says

    Bill You, my dear friend, know what you’re taking about!!!

    Kingsqueen I got taters coming right up, just for you!!!

    Jo And I’d just squeeze you right on in and have you flipping the sausage while I pour the coffee!! Hehe!!! Thank you!

    Stephanie Hehe, protein and fat, does it get any better? Fatback does taste a lot like bacon, only saltier!

    Laura Yeah, my mother calls it hog jaw a lot, too! I’m trying to go easy on some of these folks who aren’t as familiar with southern cuisine, so I was trying to use the gentler name….but hey, at least I didn’t go into the whole thing about frying eggs and brains…..~smiles sweetly~

    Rache OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoh I LOVE GREENS!!! You have to cook them now since you got me thinking’ bout them! Lol

    Su It might be called “Virginia ham”. Any ham that is salt cured is pretty much the same thing. It isn’t refrigerated or anything and is usually sold hanging up in a cotton bag. Fatback is bacon’s older sister!

    I usually cook it with the fat on but we don’t eat it, we just cut it off once we have it on our plate

    Thank you all so much for reading and commenting and….putting up with me!! LOL!
    I do love y’all to bits and pieces!
    Christy J

  9. Shae says

    Hey Christy,

    Awwww Man Christy, I need to know how to cook the fatback!

    Maybe I’ll skip it until next year. For some reason I thought I remember my grandma boiling it a little before frying it like she would do the country ham?!

    Wait nevermind, I read the tutorial again. This is for either I see. So I don’t need to boil some of the salt off?

  10. Ashley Elliott says

    Well Now! I just feel embarassed and ashamed… My family considers me to be a really good cook and it’s where I am most comfortable. My kitchen is where people can come together and enjoy moments that can never be duplicated or taken away. Whether you are family or not. But most of all I feel like what comes from the kitchen is my “product” This time my “product” was NOT GOOD at ALL!!
    Well, I was going to show my friend what fat back tasted like and to my surprise…It tasted aweful!! Yes, I know…something went terribly wrong.I didn’t WASH IT OFF FIRST!! I fried it up with all the EXTRA salt on the outside to preserve it. You couldn’t taste anything really, except for salt. It actually burned a little.(lol)

  11. Jenn in the ♡ of Dixie says

    I make a plate that we simply call “white meat”. It’s cured salt pork, boiled to get most of the salt out of it, then rolled in corn meal and fried until golden brown. The meat spatters ALOT, but it’s so worth it. Of course, you KNOW your heart doctor would have a conniption fit if they knew we were eating it!

  12. Carla Josephson says

    In Carolina we also called it streak meat or fat back, which went into everything! I so miss my Granny making country ham, red eye gravy and biscuits. Country ham biscuits were a favorite food to have in the car on road trips. Swig down a Cheer Wine with a country ham biscuit. In New Mexico I haven’t found salt cured ham/country ham/Virginia or Smithfield ham in any grocery stores yet.

    • Kay in NC says

      Carla, I just read your post. You can order Smithfield and Virginia ham from Amazon.com if you really want some. I just went to amazon and they do have it.
      I also remember my grandma calling it streak meat and she too made great biscuits with country ham and red eye gravy. We used to do our own ham a long time ago. I also know what CheerWine is LOL. Good Luck, Kay in NC 1.7.12

  13. teri says

    I love your web site. Im all bout some southern cooking to. Every New Years day I have the BIG feast of BLACK EYED PEAS, HOG JOWL, COLLARD GEEENS and corn bread. Love the stuff. I could eat greens all the time too. LOVE THEM! There are people here in N.C. that call some hams “City Ham”. I had never heard of that til I moved in this area. Its crazy to me. Its just regular ham. I guess to each his own.

  14. Joan says

    I would like to know if some of the salt should be washed off fat back before freezing. I do not use it often & it usually gets rancid before I use a whole package, What is the proper way to freeze it?

  15. Alice Ames says

    Love ALL these comments! We are having country ham for supper tonight. Can’t wait! Along with a baked sweet potato and yellow rice. Might try to get in the mood to cook up some homemade biscuits and red eye gravy!

  16. kay says

    Today was the first time I saw your post on fatback and country ham. Love both. But we can never find country ham that has as much fat as what is in our pictures. My husband said to ask if you had a time machine to be able to get this great looking ham. We love to cut some of the fat off if we are every lucky enough to get ham with the fat on it and fry it up crunchy. When my husband was growing up his parents told them the fat was white country ham, the kids ate mostly the fat while his parents had the lean part. I think some country ham now would taste pretty good. wishing you and your family all the very best in the New Year.

  17. Catherine says

    Just now running across this post….my mom would cook what she called “Grandma XXX (name removed) Steak,” which was a piece of fatback with the rind, sliced thin and fried in her iron skillet. We’d have that every other week. I was kind of ashamed of it, since it was poor folks’ food and pure, awful fat. And pork fat, to boot.

    NOW, though, I am finding the very same thing in fancy gourmet restaurants labeled “pork belly,” with a big – REALLY big – price tag attached.

    And I’m laughing like crazy!!!

  18. Dorothy Dunton says

    Hi Christy! Whenever we go to Cracker Barrel I always order country ham, fried apples, pinto beans and biscuits and I eat it all!! My husband is not a fan of ham (don’t know what is wrong with him??), so he always orders chicken and potatoes. To each their own!


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