Patti Bess: What a ham |

Patti Bess: What a ham

In this file photo, Jason Jillson, owner of The Ham Stand, surveys his meaty merchandise in his Nevada City specialty market.
Elias Funez/

Nevada City has a new salumeria in town.

Don’t know what that is? Neither did I so I stopped by to find out. Salumi is Italian for cured meats, and a salumeria is a shop that sells them as well as cheeses and other casual foods. Loosely defined, the word translates to delicatessen.

The Ham Stand opened seven months ago in Nevada City. Their sandwiches are like no others in town. A Reuben sandwich made with house made pastrami, red sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese on rye sounded mouth watering.

Owner Jason Jillson took me on a tour of his small space that produces a lot of product. In the back is the work station where he breaks down, flavors and grinds the meats; then into the cave where the magic happens. Meats air dry and age, prosciutto for up to fourteen months.

At age 13 Jason got his first job as a dishwasher in a French restaurant. He loved the fast pace, the camaraderie, and the food. After six months he was hooked. He graduated with a culinary degree from Johnson & Wales in Providence, Rhode Island, and spent several years working in various restaurants; more recently, as the executive chef of a catering company in Oakland.

Two years ago Jason and his wife, Shannon, decided to move their family of four to Nevada City. Selling their house in San Jose gave them the opportunity to buy a house here and invest in his own business. Shannon is building her business in town called Nevada County Gatherings, a concierge and special event service.

Chef Jason makes it all from scratch, right down to the farm or ranch he buys it from. Meats are all local and pasture raised—lambs from the James Ranch in Penn Valley, pork from Cosmic Roots and Llano Seco, and beef from Crest Point Farms.

He prepares classic cured meats and sausages like salami, mortadella, ham, and bologna and even sells maple-cured bacon for that special weekend breakfast. His prosciutto is aged in the “cave” for fourteen months. The blood sausage is poached, smoked and dry cured until ready to eat.

Jason hadn’t intended to make a Polish style sausage called kielbasa. Then last fall a woman came into his shop with a special request: she made kielbasa for her husband’s birthday for twenty years, but she wondered if he might make it this time. He did, and she thought tasted as good as her grandmother’s.

In recent years more chefs in the Bay Area began breaking down and processing their own meats, something Jason also experimented with where he worked. He attended a week long seminar in Oakland with Francois Vecchio of Columbia Sausage Company, and it soon became his passion.

At The Ham Stand a hot soup is also on the menu every day as well as frozen quarts for take-out. If you like various fermented foods, Jason prepares and sells sauerkraut, pickles, and kim chee. Saturdays are Barbeque Day. Twenty dollars gets you a plate of barbequed German inspired meats—sauerbraten, bratwurst, or German style meatballs. Or try some Scottish Eggs wrapped in linguisa, breaded and fried.

The Ham Stand is located at 821 Zion Street in Nevada City.

Try this nutritious one pot meal. You can use your favorite sausage from The Ham Stand, or even salami.

Sausage and Greens

2 cups cooked brown rice

1 medium onion, chopped fine

1 red or green pepper, chopped

2 to 3 sausages, sliced into bite-size pieces

1 bunch kale, chopped fine

Salt and fresh ground pepper

3/4 cup broth, water or stewed tomatoes

In a large fry pan sauté the onion, green pepper, and sausage. Add the greens, rice, salt and pepper. Turn the heat to low, add the broth. Cover and steam until greens have softened. Serve topped with parmesan cheese, a dollop of sour cream or yogurt.

Patti Bess is a freelance writer and cookbook author. Her articles have appeared in more than 20 magazines. She can be reached at

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