THE ART OF CUTTING HAM WELL

Como cortar bien un jamom

It is easy to buy a ham… but to buy a good ham is not so easy.  How do we know when we are buying a good ham?  There are certain rules to be taken into account:  First of all, a ham should have its fatty strips.  If it doesn’t, most likely it will prove to be dry or salty.  Secondly, it has to weigh approximately 7 kilos, for if it is smaller, there might be more bone than meat.  And finally, we should also ask the salesman to make a sample cut in the shoulder area, which should give off a gentle aroma of ham, without any other odd smell.

Now we have our ham.  But, we have to cut it correctly:  and in order to do that, we need three knives: one strong, resistant one, about 20 cm. long, to cut off the fatty cortex or hard skins; another deboning knife, about 13 cm. long, to profile or shape the bone; and finally, a special ham-cutting knife, about 20 to 30 cm. long, light and flexible enough to cut thin slices.

The first step is to put the piece of ham in the jamonero or ham-holder, securing the leg firmly in place.  Next, remove the cortex.  The best way to do this is to make a cut in the leg, approximately 2 cm. below the heel, in the direction of the shoulder. Then, use the paring knife to cut off the cortex layer in more or less wide strips, but without going too deeply so as not to cut the ham itself.  The cut should be made upwards taking special care to protect your hand with the knife handle or by wrapping it up in a cloth or using a metallic glove.

The next thing you have to do is remove the mellow strip of fat (yellow), but never the pink or white strip, which helps to prevent the ham from drying out.  It is also a good idea to use the largest strip of fatty cortex to cover the sliced ham, and in this way it will always be in perfect condition.

We should cut the ham in small and thin strips, so that we can just pop them into our mouth.  The ham shank should be placed parallel to the body but at a slight right or left angle, depending upon whether the cutter is right- or left-handed.  The wrist should be relaxed, while the hand holds the knife firmly.  The cut should be made from top to bottom.  The blade should be held obliquely to the ham.  And the cutter’s hand should always be on the same level as the cutting surface.  Begin to make the cut by sliding the knife gently over the ham’s surface.  The spot where the slice ends is where you should begin to cut the next one, and so on, until you reach the bone.

With a little bit of practice, cutting your cured ham will prove to be a simple task and will bring us to the very best part:  Eating it.  Enjoy!

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