Coursey’s

Review by: Michael Stern

Coursey’s is a vintage ham house in the Ozarks of North Arkansas. Mrs. Paula Hale, whose father started the business, told us that it began as a dirt-floor cabin (which is still standing outside the new, modern display room). “My father hung each ham from a nail in the wall and wrapped it in a dry-goods box,” she recalled.

Coursey’s meats are now smoked in stainless steel facilities and the old wooden cabin out front is only a reminder of days gone by. We spent an educational half-hour consulting with Mrs. Hale and her kids about how to best get a ham and a couple of pounds of bacon shipped to us during a summer heat wave (we finally decided to wait until cooler weather), and we discussed the fine points of making tasty red-eye gravy. Mrs. Hale clued us in to the joy of a good ham hock, which should never be thrown away once the ham has been eaten: It makes the perfect pot-companion for long-cooked greens or beans. And she reminded us that when we fried Coursey’s bacon – made from corn-fed hogs and slow-cured over burning green hickory logs – we should save the drippings to season our hominy or cabbage.

Primarily a mail-order and take-out business, with hanging hams and smoky bacon flavoring the air with hickory perfume, an assortment of jerkies in jars, and shelves of interesting local jellies, sorghum and honey for sale, Coursey’s has a small counter in back where you can have a sandwich made of ham or turkey and your choice of cheese. There is nothing fancy here: just meat (cheese is optional) on supermarket bread. But oh, what good meat! It is lean, sweet, and tender, with an alluring wood-smoke bouquet but none of the pungency of salt-cured country ham.

What To Eat

hickory-smoked ham

DISH
Sandwich

DISH
Smoked Turkey Snacks

DISH

Coursey’s Recipes

Discuss

What do you think of Coursey’s?

One Response to “Coursey’s”

Gary Scott

April 17th, 2009

My family and I first discovered Coursey’s in the late 1950’s while taking a float trip down the Buffalo River. The float operation was run by Mr. Coursey. We rented a Jon Boat and set out on a fishing trip, swimming trip for us kids, and enjoyed the incredible scenery along the river. The highlight of the trip was none of the above, which were wonderful in their own right, but the delicious “Shore Lunch” Mr. Coursey had provided, just in case the fishing was slow. That simple brown paper bag contained, among other things, a large chunk of smoked cheese and a smoked ham sandwich, the aroma and taste of which we have never forgotten. At the end of the trip, my dad asked, “Where did you get such a smoked ham?” Turned out Mr. Coursey smoked them himself. We bought one, took it home, and the aroma and taste was intense, much stronger and more flavorful than any ham we had ever experienced.

We continued to do business with them for years and years, enjoying hams ourselves, presenting them as business gifts, and always having one for Christmas dinner. We would buy a whole ham. The flavor was so intense that when you finally got to the bone in the center, the BONE smelled like a hickory stick, much stronger and flavorful than most smoked hams smelled or tasted at the surface. This ham goes beyond any that I’ve ever had, and I don’t say that lightly. For the flavor to reach all the way to the bone and be that strong, well, it is simply beyond any other that I’ve ever tried.

Restaurants for miles around in the area offer a few slices of Coursey’s smoked hams shaved paper thin, but why skimp. Go directly to the source for a generously stacked smoked ham sandwich and experience all their delicacies, smoked sausage and turkey, cheddar and Swiss cheeses and more.

I love smoked ham and have tried many, but for me, Coursey’s is the gold standard in smoked ham. I’ve never found anything even remotely close. On a one to ten scale, Coursey’s would be a ten, while literally everything else that I’ve ever tasted would max out at a solid three. It is difficult to describe in words the difference between a Coursey’s ham and all the rest, it is a MUST TRY. And while you’re at it, save time to float the Buffalo River, wade in the river, or explore one of the many campgrounds you will find at the ends of marked, long secluded roads.

Reply

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