The first week The Farmers’ Larder served hot ham-and-egg breakfast sandwiches at local farmers’ markets, customers clamored not only to get a bite of the new offering but also one of the key ingredients: the ham.

The Matoushek family produces and sells handed-crafted smoked and cured meats using locally sourced livestock and organic herbs and spices under The Farmers’ Larder label. They knew sliced deli ham would be a big hit with consumers, but ham is often processed with phosphates, which the Matoushek don’t use.

“Phosphates expand the muscle structure of ham, plus they absorb water and retain moisture. The muscle expansion helps hold the ham together. We use a single muscle, which makes for smaller slices, but allows us to keep our ham phosphate-free,” Lucian Matoushek says.

The Matousheks avoid using commercial nitrates as well. “We use celery juice powder in our cures, which contains naturally-occurring nitrites.”

Finding the balance between salty and sweet took some finagling: “Local honey and sea salt flavor the ham, but I don’t like a ham that tastes too sweet. What we have now is the right combination,” Matoushek says.

The ham slices aren’t too thick or thin, he adds: “We’re right in the middle on the slices. We sell the hams 10 slices to a package, with the weight at 1/3 to ½ pound per package.”

As with every new product, the Matousheks learned how to best entice a customer. They fan out the ham slices in a flat package for a nice presentation. When the smell of ham cooking wafts through the markets, customers often buy a sandwich and some ham to take home.

Don’t like ham and eggs? The Matousheks grill franks, sausages and brats for hungry shoppers, too.

Check out their stand at the Clayton and Tower Grove farmers’ markets on Saturday mornings, the Schlafly Farmers Market on Wednesdays from 4pm to 7pm and the Webster Groves market on Thursdays from 3pm to 7pm.

Tower Grove Farmers' Market, Tower Grove Park,

Clayton Farmers' Market, 8282 Forsyth Blvd., Clayton, 314.913.6632,

Webster Groves Farmers' Market,

Schlafly Farmers Market at the Schlafly Bottleworks, 7260 Southwest Ave., Maplewood, 314.241.BEER,

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