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From the Smokehouse to Your House

Joel Mahary | August 31, 2020


NATURAL CHOICE® hardwood smoked lunch meats aren’t just expertly crafted — they’re infused with special hardwood tradition and lifestyle

The newest Natural Choice® lunch meats lineup is cooked low and slow: four hours at 275ºF. Not a degree more, or a minute less. High-quality meat, hung in open nets over real applewood and pecan wood chips. It’s a traditional process that yields smoked meat with a thick, chewy outer rind, rich color, and bite similar to premium whole hams and turkeys.

This product delivers all the flavor and goodness of hardwood smoking combined with the convenience of a lunch meat. Which is why we call Natural Choice® hardwood smoked lunch meats the slow-smoked meat for a fast-paced world.

Cooked Low & Slow
275ºF over real applewood and pecan wood chips
cook time to deliver all the flavor and goodness of hardwood smoking
Slow-Smoked Meat
for a fast-paced world

There’s more to hardwood-smoked goodness than meets the eye. In fact, the pursuit of hardwood smoking perfection is built on a foundation of four pillars: Community, Craft, Spirit, and Meat Science. We’ve gathered together four leading lights of the barbeque world to help us capture the unique attributes of Natural Choice® hardwood smoked lunch meats. We think each uniquely embodies the four pillars in ways that are telling and inspiring.


Christopher Prieto of Prime Barbecue in Knightdale, North Carolina, has been on a quest to find the “soul” of barbeque since he was a boy growing up in Texas. His pursuit of perfection has taken him across the country many times, where he’s inspired tens of thousands of students, fellow chefs and hungry customers. As a teacher, author, chef and mentor, Christopher embodies the very idea of community during this, the golden age of barbeque.

Fire Grilled Cuban Sandwich from Christopher Prieto

  • Hands-On Time

    25 minutes
  • Total Time

    1 hour
  • Serves

  • 1 (8-ounce) loaf Cuban bread
  • 1/4 cup mustard
  • 6 to 8 dill pickle chips
  • 1 1/2 cups pulled pork
  • 6 slices HORMEL® NATURAL CHOICE® Pecanwood Smoked Ham with Brown Sugar
  • 8 slices Swiss cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened


Heat charcoal or gas grill to 350°F to 400°F 30 minutes before building sandwich. Double wrap a brick with foil and place on grill to heat.

Trim off ends of bread. Cut bread in half horizontally. Spread mustard on cut side of bread bottom. Cover mustard with layer of pickle chips. Top with pulled pork, ham slices and cheese. Cover with bread top. Coat outside of bread with butter. Place on grill. Place heated foil covered brick on top of sandwich to press down. Cook 3 to 4 minutes. Turn sandwich, cover with brick and cook 2 to 3 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Remove sandwich from grill and let rest 1 to 2 minutes. Cut sandwich at angle to serve. Serve with plantain chips or strips. Serves 2.


From the Culinary Institute of America valedictorian to World Series of BBQ champion, Matt Abdoo of Pig Beach in New York City, New York, is all about taking his craft higher. In his constant pursuit of smokehouse perfection, Matt embodies perfectly the craft that lies at the heart of slow-smoke culture.

Pecan Smoked Sweet Black Peppered Ham Croque Madame from Matt Abdoo

  • Total Time

    35 minutes
  • Serves

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese, divided
  • 8 slices sourdough bread
  • 8 slices Swiss cheese
  • 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 6-ounce) packages HORMEL® NATURAL CHOICE® Pecanwood Smoked Ham with Sweet Black Pepper
  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and divided
  • 4 eggs


In small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter. Whisk in flour; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add milk; bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low. Whisk in salt, pepper, nutmeg and ½ cup shredded Gruyere cheese. Once cheese is melted, remove from heat and place plastic wrap directly on sauce to prevent skin from forming.

Heat broiler. Lay bread slices bottom to bottom so they line up to easily flip to form the sandwich. On top bread slices spread 2 tablespoons sauce and 2 slices Swiss cheese. On bottom bread slices, spread 1 tablespoon mustard and ¼ the ham. Flip cheese side onto ham to form sandwiches. Spread 1 tablespoon softened butter on top and 1 tablespoon softened butter on bottom side of each sandwich.

In large nonstick skillet over medium heat, place sandwiches cheese side down. Cook 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and cook 2 to 3 minutes longer or until golden brown and cheese is melted. Place sandwiches on baking sheet, cheese side up. Evenly divide remaining sauce on top of each sandwich. Sprinkle 1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese over sauce. Broil 3 to 5 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and golden brown.

In large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Crack eggs in skillet. Season eggs with salt and pepper. Cook eggs 5 minutes or until whites are set and yolks are still soft. Top each sandwich with egg. Serves 4.


Marlando “Big Moe” Cason, Star of America’s Pitmasters and BBQ Pit Wars, love for barbeque comes authentically. Big Moe was raised with the savory aroma of grilled meat and hardwood coals, and the happy sounds of family and friends gathering for meals around the family’s backyard smoker. Using skills, recipes and ingredients passed down by his grandma, Big Moe is the very heart and soul of hardwood smoking. After competing in 260 contests in 35 states, he says “Barbeque for me is a way of life.”

Grilled Garlic And Herb Turkey Sandwich from Big Moe Cason

  • Total Time

    15 minutes
  • Serves

  • 6 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 slices rye bread
  • 8 tablespoons pumpkin butter
  • 2 slices smoked Provolone cheese
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion, if desired
  • 1/2 cup baby arugula
  • 2 slices HORMEL® NATURAL CHOICE® Applewood Smoked Turkey with Garlic & Herb


Heat grill to 300°F. Spread 3 tablespoons butter on one side of each bread slice. Turn bread slices over. Spread pumpkin butter on each bread slice. Layer 1 slice cheese, onion, arugula, turkey and 1 slice cheese on one slice of bread. Place remaining slice of bread over cheese, pumpkin butter side down.

In heavy skillet over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoon butter. Place sandwich in skillet. Cover and cook 70 seconds. Uncover, turn sandwich over, cover and cook 70 seconds longer or until bread is golden brown and cheese is melted. Serves 1.

Meat Science

When World Champion Pitmaster and BBQ Chef Expert Danielle Bennett — known across barbeque culture as “Diva Q®” — was named winner of the the Jack Daniel’s World Pork Championship, it was the culmination of her long devotion to learning the science and art of hardwood smoking. Over her career, Diva Q® has scoured the country, finding inspiration in everything from roadside barbeque smokers to high-end restaurants featuring the latest barbeque technology. As she likes to say, “I’m like a kid in a candy store when I get to barbeque, teach and mentor!”

Ultimate Decadent Ham & Cheese from Danielle Bennett

  • Hands-On Time

    25 minutes
  • Total Time

    1 hour
  • Serves

  • 6 ounces Brie cheese
  • 6 ounces Gruyere cheese
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 8 thick slices sourdough bread, toasted
  • 2 pears, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups arugula
  • 2 (6-ounce) packages HORMEL® NATURAL CHOICE® Applewood Smoked Ham
  • 2 tablespoons clover honey


Remove rind from Brie. Freeze Gruyere and Brie cheese 30 minutes prior to shredding. Toss shredded cheese with cornstarch.

In small saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter and flour. Whisk in milk, mustard and garlic paste. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes. Add thyme and grated cheeses; stir until cheese is melted. Continue stirring until completely melted and thickened. Remove from heat and set aside.

Spread 1/2 tablespoon butter on one side of each toasted bread slice. Pour cheese sauce on each bread slice. Place pear slices on 4 bread slices. Place arugula on remaining 4 bread slices. Top pears with ham. Put bread slices together to form a sandwich. Drizzle honey over each sandwich. Serves 4.

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