HOW TO IDENTIFY A GOOD HAM

  • The leg should be long, slender and hairless.
  • The hoof must be dark.
  • When you pinch the ham, your fingers should sink into it easily. The fat should be smooth and homogeneous.
  • The ham should weigh between 7,5 and 9,5 kilos.
  • All parts have a traceability label (a white label and a barcode).
  • Each leg of ham must be dated with the week and the year that the pig was sacrificed. With this information you can determine whether the ham had enough curing time (from 24 and 36 months).
  • Hams must have a band and one arrow seal (red, blue or green) of the Certification of Origin Guijuelo depending on the class (acorn, natural fodder or bait pigs).
  • When cutting, the best hams have lines of fat throughout the meat (not just at the sides). These lines are a sign that the pigs were fed on acorns and that the fat spread evenly.
  • The hams with concentration of tyrosine (small whitish areas that appear in the meat) are those which reflect a long, slow treatment and are therefore synonymous of pieces of great quality.

CARVING A HAM

Carving a piece of ham is a ritual that, in the case of the Iberian hams, is essential. First of all, the piece must be placed with the hoof up (if it is going to be eaten in the day) or down (if it takes longer to consume). Here are the steps to slice the ham well:

  1. A deep vertical cut is made near the hoof, removing the rind and subcutaneous fat. At all times we must keep the horizontal line of cut and it should be carved in slices as short and thin as possible with a good carving knife suitable for this.
  2. On reaching the hip, you should use the knife point to make a cut around the bone and save it.
  3. Continue the cut, obtaining thin slices from the rump. We continue to maintain the horizontal line of the cut.
  4. Finally, we have to turn the ham and we have to cut the last part in small cubes. Instruments needed: a cutting board, it would be ideally having three good knives, one long ham knife, one short and strong, and a broadleaf knife.

Instruments: a carving table, three good knives: one serrated to remove the skin, one long, flexible “jamonero” knife, a different short, strong knife and a flint stone for knife-sharpening to keep the knives sharp.

IBERIAN HAM: STORAGE AND CONSUMPTION

  • Do not refrigerate! The ham should be kept at room temperature (ideal temperature is between 10 and 15 degrees), preferably in a cool and dry place. To store it, hang it uncovered from the ceiling with a hook. The kitchen pantry is the ideal place to store a leg of ham.
  • Do not worry if fungus mould is formed on the leg, it’s normal. Remove it by wiping with a cloth dipped in olive oil preferably.
  • If you eat ham every day, cover the cut area with a dry cloth. If, however, you do not eat it every day and you want to store it for a while, cover the cut side with a layer of fat from the ham or with a little olive oil. Then cover the top with foil or plastic wrap.
  • If your ham is stored for a time without being cut, it is best to remove the first slice.
  • For a delicious appetizer, serve ham on hot plates.
  • Under appropriate conditions, a ham can be stored for about a year.
  • If the ham gets tough, you can cut it into small pieces and add it to a variety of dishes such as soups and other recipes. You can put cubes of ham on salad, eat it with vegetables or eggs. There are many ways to incorporate ham into your daily diet.

PRESENTATION OF IBERIAN HAM

Never slice the ham with a serrated knife, this knife only serves us to peel off the skin. Serve the ham in very thin slices instead of squares or chunks. The slices must be so thin that, having cut it, you can see the knife through the ham. Slice it just before serving. A kilo of ham should be sufficient to obtain approximately 100 slices.

For its presentation, it will be placed in a medium or large plate, covering the surface of the plate smoothly and with the utmost care. The slices must be thin, neither very small nor very big. The best size allows us to put the slices into our mouths without biting. All the slices must have their share of intramuscular fat, which will give a touch of juiciness.

The slices of Ham and of the Iberian products in general must be consumed at the recommended temperature for their perfect savouring. A warm temperature is where we can best appreciate their aromas, flavours and bouquets (natural aromas). To achieve this, a few minutes before consumption, the product should be kept at an ideal temperature (approximately 25ºC). If this is not possible, serve the ham on warmed plates.

It is advisable to combine slices of the different parts of the ham on the same plate, thus being able to savour the different tastes of every area of the ham.

TASTING IBERIAN HAM

First of all, it is necessary to clarify that every consumer can have a different perception of the following senses; this is because there are consumers more or less experienced in the tasting of these products.

Briefly, we are going to see the characteristics that the Iberian Ham has and that make it the special one when you taste it:

  • The visual aspect: It is determined by the colour, the sheen, the veined and the tyrosine crystals of the meat.
  • The smell: The olfactory dimension is given by two variables: the intensity and what we call “the typical smell of an acorn ham”.
  • As for the texture of the fat, there are two factors that affect it: the hardness or the softness.
  • As for the texture of the meat, three parameters are combined: the dryness, the juiciness and the hardness.
  • As for the flavour, it is differentiated between salty, sweet and bitter.

We invite you to taste one of the finest products that can be find in the whole world: Jamon Iberico de Bellota Guillen. Relax and … Enjoy!

NUTRITIONAL QUALITIES

The principal components of the meat are proteins and fat. The consumption of meat provides the sufficient quantity of proteins necessary for the growth and for the perfect development of our organism, due to the essential amino acids that compose the pork meat. As for the fat, depending on the feeding of the animal it is going to be of one type or another.

Therefore, we can summarize the qualities of the ham and of the different products of the Iberian pork as follows:

  • It contains proteins of high biological value, with high percentages of the amino acids that are essential and necessary for the organism.
  • The cholesterol content is relatively low compared with other food.
  • Pork is an excellent source of group B vitamins.
  • The minerals that it contains are numerous, though iron is the most out-standing one.

Thus, pork meat should be habitual in the diet of any person whose levels of cholesterol are not very high. All these properties are scientifically demonstrated and they try to break the myth that pork is very fatty and that it is not healthy for human consumption.

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