Monday, February 27, 2012

the hand and the master

the hand-2

ham is a whole culture that goes beyond food ingest. therefore very few things  are taken as seriously here as ham.
the breed of the pigs and their raising and caring, the butchering and curing of the legs in the controlled storing unit; the seasoning and maturing.

after that there's the post production where the proper cutting is required. many a good portion of ham has been ruined by a too thick cut because the slices need to be paper thin in order to uplift its perfume and boost the flavor.

the master

then comes the ritual part of the cutting. a hand gloved in a coat of mail of sorts is placed at the correct angle and commences  its dance, slowly sliding and shaving the surface.
this is a skill so there are specific courses in official academies where people train.
the yearly highlight are the much expected ham cutting tournaments which  take place in various regions in spain. it is  not only a great honor to win the medal; it can also translate in  job offers because good ham cutters are greatly sought after.

another part of the ritual is sampling and  buying.  every good jamoneria takes pride in their product and hands you out a sample before you buy. if it's slightly firm, sweet and with no saltiness you are ready to buy your ham.
but, mind you at the prices a good  iberico ham commands- around 90-150€ kilo of cut ham, whole piece is slightly less pricey - you definitely buy  a taste.
since there's huge difference in flavor between serrano which comes from white pigs and iberico as a result  you pay for that difference.

last but not least there's the social component of the ham culture.
given the social nature of spaniards perhaps the most important is sharing a good ham with friends.
for that special celebration people splurge, have a friend or two by the side and indulge in iberico accompanied by a good fino sherry -my favorite take- or a good red wine.
small pleasures in life; good talk, good friends, good ham.

pd. need i say i was in madrid? ^_^

neki desu
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  1. WOW. I totally didn't expect the delightful lesson on ham but it was definitely interesting. I lived near Smithfield, VA for several years and Gwaltney was close enough to my Real Estate office that I could either love ham one day or hate it the next...depending on the odors emanating from the plant. Now that I'm in Colombia, I MISS it!!! We don't get good ham here...and I'm sure my version of good doesn't even touch yours.

  2. welcome back! missed your quirky info. what an amazing lesson on ham, I had no idea - hope you had a good taste, both the ham and the sherry.

  3. Ben tornata, cara, e con questa incredibile storia di prosciutto della quale non avevo mai sentito parlare. Chissà che squisitezza!

  4. Now I'm hungry, shhhh


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