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Slicing, serving and storage

Jamon Serrano Slicing, Serving and Storage

Accessories for Jamon Serrano Carving

Buarfe Folding Ham Holder
Stock: 32 ham holders
 
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Arcos Universal ham carving knife
Stock: 54 knives
 
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Zwilling TwinSharp Select Sharpener
Stock: 3 sharpeners
 
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All Sharpening Steels

Proper storage and preparation for serving are essential to enjoy the full flavour of hams and the subtleties of their aroma. Following the suggestions below will allow you fully to enjoy Bellota grade Iberico ham, one of the world's great gastronomic pleasures.

In this page...


Serving

Ham should be consumed at room temperature, or about 21ºC. At this temperature the fat appears lustrous; when it is too cold, its appearance is more opaque.

Slices should be thin, of medium size, and contain a certain amount of the marbled fat that gives them their particular succulence.

In addition to its incomparable flavour, the nutritional properties of "bellota" quality Iberico ham make it an ideal complement to a healthy, balanced diet.

How to slice a hind leg cut ("jamón")

How to slice a ham (PDF 1.1 MB)
Download our ham slicing manual
(PDF 1,1 MB)

In specialty butcher shops and shops where Ibérico ham is sold it is possible to obtain machine-cut slices from boneless hams. Popular wisdom has it, however, that a good ham should be sliced with a knife to obtain optimum organoleptic qualities for consumption.

Apart from the sheer pleasure of watching a ham being trimmed, cut and presented in the traditional manner, it is said that machine-sliced ham actually loses some of its aroma(spanish) and the characteristics that the fat lends it, due to the heat produced by the friction of the slicing blade against the meat surface.

There is no doubt, however, that the actual slicing of a ham with a knife is part of the genuine, quality Iberico ham tasting experience. It is a simple process too, with the right equipment. Nevertheless, certain safety measures should be observed.

  1. Use a holder designed for this purpose, to keep the ham firmly in place.
  2. When slicing, the hand not holding the knife should always be higher than the hand holding the knife.
  3. Keep your body at a safe distance from the cutting area.
  4. Slice slowly, without applying too much force.

Equipment you will need to slice a ham

Ham slicing accessories

To slice an Iberico ham properly it is essential to have a:

  1. Knife sharpener (sharpening steel): use it to whet your knife quickly, easily and safely.
  2. Ham knife: a knife specially designed for slicing ham. The blade is long, narrow, flexible, and very sharp, allowing you to make thin, precise slices, adjusting movements to the shape of the area to be cut.
  3. Ham holder: a firm stand onto which the hind leg or shoulder ham is mounted in the appropriate position for slicing.

It may also be useful for you to have on hand a:

  1. Clean dishtowel: to cover the ham when you have finished slicing it.
  2. Small knives: with a short, sharp blade, which you can use to make clean cuts in the most angular parts of the ham.
  3. Tongs: for an elegant presentation, use them to handle ham slices and slivers and arrange them on a serving dish.

1. Preparing for slicing

How to place the ham
Parts of the ham:
  1. Maza (thicker end)
  2. Babilla, or Contramaza (narrow end)
  3. Flank
  4. Knuckle

The ham holder should be placed at a height and position in which the ham can be sliced comfortably without having to strain or adopt an awkward position.

If the entire ham is to be consumed in a short space of time (1 or 2 days), begin slicing at the thickest part or "maza" (a). Begin by mounting the ham in the holder with the hoof facing up, as shown in the photo.

If it is going to be consumed slowly (more than 2 days) it is better to begin slicing the narrower side, or "contramaza" (b), so that this area does not end up becoming too dry. To slice the ham this way, have the hoof facing down.

2. Trimming the Ham

Sequence showing how to trim a ham

Before beginning to slice the ham it must be trimmed; i.e., skin and the outer fat covering the area to be cut must be removed until the meat underneath is visible.

On the outside of the ham are natural moulds and exudates which occur naturally during the curing and maturation process, and which must be removed from around the area to be cut to avoid a rancid flavour.

If the ham is to be consumed the same day the skin and fat may be removed completely; if not, they should be removed as needed around the area to be sliced.

3. Slicing

Sequence showing how to slice a ham

Cut fine (almost transparent) slices, the width of the ham and 6 to 7 cm in length. As you slice deeper, remove the skin and outer fat from the sides.

Make parallel slices, away from the hoof. The cut surface should be flat, without ridges.

It is advisable to combine slices from the more succulent, fat-marbled maza, or central part (a) with slices from the flank (c).

When you reach the bone, cut around it so that subsequent slices detach easily.

Slicing the ham's flank
Slicing the flank

The meat nearest the bone should not be sliced, but cut into "tacos" or small chunks, used to enrich soups and stews(spanish).

Slicing the ham's knuckle
Slicing along the knuckle (d) to obtain ham chunks.
Cutting the meat into small chunks
Cutting the meat into small chunks

When all the meat has been removed from the larger side, turn the ham so that the hoof is facing downward.

Turning the ham
Changing the position of the ham
Slicing the narrow end of the ham
Slicing the narrow end
Cutting with the small knife
Cutting with the small knife

Place the slices on a plate in a single layer, slightly overlapping if desired.

Ham slices on a plate

4. Finally: Using the ham bone

The ham bone itself is also an excellent ingredient, adding flavour to broths, soups and stews.

For use in cooking the bone is sawed into medium-sized pieces (roughly the size of a fist) which can be frozen for future use.

How to slice a shoulder cut ("paletilla")

How to slice a ham shoulder (PDF 1.0 MB)
Download our ham shoulder slicing manual
(PDF 1,0 MB)

Slicing a shoulder cut is similar to slicing a hind leg cut: if it is to be consumed the same day, begin slicing at the thicker end (maza), with the hoof facing upward; if it is to be consumed over a longer period, it is better to begin on the opposite side (contramaza), with the ham placed in the holder with the hoof facing down.

First remove the outer rind, moulds and skin near the area to be cut, just as you would with the hind leg.

In the case of the shoulder, however, small knives are normally used to cut the meat nearest the bone, whose flavour is considered particularly succulent.

Placing the shoulder cut on the ham holder
Slicing the maza
Slicing the choulder cut
Keep the free hand above the knife

Sharpening a ham knife

The preferred metal for ham knives is stainless steel, for its flexibility and resistance, although it requires frequent sharpening. For this reason, before slicing the ham it is recommended that the knife be sharpened with a sharpening steel (a file that removes irregularities from metal) or a whetstone.

As shown in the picture, with the blade of the knife tilted at about 20º, place it against the upper part of the sharpener and slide it smoothly downward, making sure that the entire knife blade comes in contact with the file. Repeat, this time with the other side of the blade, and continue to do so in succession until the knife is well honed.

Placing the knife for its sharpening
Tilting the knife blade,
and movements made to sharpen it
Honing the knife with a sharpener, or sharpening steel
Honing the knife with a sharpener,
or sharpening steel

If you use a whetstone, sharpen the knife by pulling it backward (not forward against the cutting edge), then lift the blade and place it back in the starting position. It is important to leave the whetstone to soak in water for at least 2 hours prior to using it.

To finish, wipe the blade with a knife to remove any metal dust which could otherwise lend an off taste or colour to the meat slices.

Storing your ham

Sequence showing how to cover a ham to store it

Neither hind leg nor shoulder cuts require special storage conditions, although they should be kept in a cool, dry place (between 10º and 15º), preferably hanging, or on a ham holder.

Any ham that is cut should be consumed immediately, or wrapped in wax paper or cling wrap to avoid contact with air. In any case, it is recommended that you cut only as much as will be consumed.

Each time you slice the ham, protect the cut area with some of the larger pieces of lard and rind, so that the fat on the surface always remains fresh.

To further protect the ham it is recommended that you cover it with a clean dish towel.

The best accompaniment

To enjoy all of the flavour and aromas of Ibérico bellota ham, it is best to eat it only with some bread. Red wines, aged (crianza) or not, and moderately aged (crianza) dry whites with moderate acidity are a good accompaniment. In any case, the consensus among experts is that the best matches are fino and manzanilla sherries. Finos offer aromas that combine well, are smooth to the taste, and have low acidity and a hint of saltiness. The initial bitter taste of the fino sherries also combines perfectly with the slightly bitter flavour that develops in the fat of the ham during maturation.

Beer is not only an excellent choice to accompany dishes that are hot, acidic or very spicy; it also goes very well with ham, and all kinds of smoked meats and sausage.

International wines

Italy: Brunello de Montalcino and Chianti Classico, produced in the province of Siena, are two of the world's major wines, combining perfectly with Iberico "bellota" ham.

France: Look for rosé champagnes (the Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier or Pinot Noir varieties), which combine as well with ham as they do with desserts or appetizers.

Recipes

Ham is an excellent ingredient that is widely used in Iberico cuisine, appearing in both traditional dishes and in the modern culinary creations of prestigious chefs.

Classic recipes(spanish)
Meat and eggs, Fish, Fruit & vegetables, Soups & stews.


More about Ibérico Spanish Ham

Iberico jamon serrano production in Spain

More information...

See also

Ibérico de Bellota Ham in Spain

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