HAM FACTS – GUIDE TO SERRANO HAM
Practical Guide to Serrano Ham
Serrano ham is easily digestible and contains high levels of acidic and unsaturated fats which help regulate cholesterol levels. It is an ideal food for a balanced healthy diet due to nutritional properties. Each ham contains vitamins B1 and B2, iron, phosphorus and proteins.
The fat content in Serrano ham is an important factor effecting quality. Fat helps balance curing and plays an important role in the result of a high quality ham. Fat should not be discarded and should be enjoyed as a flavoursome part of the ham.
Serrano hams occasionally have what appear to be white dots embedded in the meat – these are by no means harmful and are regarded by some experts as a sign of a high quality cured ham. The white dots are made up of amino acids and occur during the latter stages of curing.
The leg is cleaned and trimmed before being stacked in sal gordo – a full grain sea salt. The length of time the hams remain in the salt depends on weight. Usually it is between ten and fourteen days. The hams are then removed from the salt and washed before being hung. Traditionally knotted rope is used to hang the hams. The conditions are very cool and dry and over time this is when the hams develop their distinct flavour and aroma.
All of Orce Serrano hams are tested for maturity. This involves puncturing the ham with a long thin bone. The aroma indicates the hams maturity. (very similar to judging a fine cheese)
Jamon & Paleta:
The weight of a Serrano ham typically depends on the animals age, the larger and heavier the ham the more likely that it has come from an older animal. This in no way affects the quality of the hams. Towards the end of the feeding regime the pigs are fed on a low protein diet, this helps develop the texture of the meat.
An average hind leg will weigh approximately 7.5kg – this is the Jamon the front shoulder, Paleta is smaller and typically weighs around 4.5kg to 5kg.
On exposed areas of meat where the ham has been cut a white veil can form if the ham has been left for several days. This does not in any way suggest contamination or degradation of the ham. The initial slice should be discarded and the meat underneath will be ruby red and moist.
Once the ham has been cut into the meat and fat can begin to change colour slightly due to exposure, meat may darken and fat can develop a yellow tint, this is caused by a process called oxidation. It is important to protect the ham with a tea towel or white muslin funda (ham sock) supplied. Being a cured meat this oxidation is a natural process and is not harmful.
Due to conditions of low humidity on exposed cut hams, small deposits can form on the surface of the meat. These deposits are perfectly harmless and can be removed by simply discarding the first slice.
The ideal temperature to eat your Serrano ham slices is around 18 – 20 degrees Celsius (room temperature) Ham slices should be carved as thinly as possible and left to breath before consuming. Slices can begin to “sweat” due to the fat content – this is the perfect time to enjoy.
Serrano hams with no bone have been cured in the same way as full leg hams with bone and hoof still present. The bone is then removed after curing has finished and the ham piece is vacuum packed. Boneless hams and vacuum packed ham pieces should always be kept refrigerated between 5° – 12° Celsius.