Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Music, Wrestling; More Than Pork at Ham Jam

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Music, Wrestling; More Than Pork at Ham Jam

Article excerpt

Let there be no doubt.

The First Coast Ham Jam has all sorts of entertainment, musical

and otherwise, and this year, for the first time, professional

wrestling. But the Ham Jam is, first and foremost, about cooking

pork.

And judging pork.

And smelling and eating pork.

The annual event -- the 10th version begins tomorrow at the

Spencer Farm in Middleburg and ends Sunday -- is recognized as

the state's official porkcooking contest.

Fifty cooking teams are signed up from as far away as Indiana,

said Ronnie Munsey, one of the two lead Ham Jam organizers.

The teams will bring with them secret recipes, specially

fabricated cookers and high hopes for a sizable portion of the

$5,000 in prize money. They will cook in three categories --

whole hog, shoulders and ribs -- and be in the running for

overall grand champion, the team that takes home the prestige of

being Florida's best and a $2,000 prize.

One of those teams is the Firehouse Chefs, which consists of

five members of the Clay County Fire and Rescue Professionals,

the county firefighters' union. Earlier this month, the team

tested a new cooker at a Georgia pork contest -- the Big Pig Jig

in Vienna, which is larger than the Ham Jam -- and placed eighth

in the ribs category of 95 teams entered.

The chefs are hopeful for even higher honors from the Ham Jam

judges.

"We've got the bugs worked out," said chef Monty Coleman. "We

are real proud about it."

The team was organized about eight years ago, he said.

"We do it for PR for our members. And after the judging . . .

all the [union] members come around and we feed them," Coleman

said. "We have a good time with it."

But they keep head chef Tom Rodgers' recipe a closely guarded

secret, he said.

"I'm not going to tell you that," Coleman said of the recipe.

Ham Jam visitors do not have to be in the fire and rescue

union to get some eats, Munsey said. Vendors will be selling

barbecue throughout the event, he said, and cooking teams are

allowed to give away their pork after the contest. …

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