How to Store Spanish Ham
One of more common questions we get asked is how long a ham will keep for once it has been cut into, the answer to this depends on where the ham will be kept and how it will be stored. In Southern Spain where the hams are cured the winters are very dry and cold and summers very hot – perfect natural conditions as the humidity level is very low. Here we have some tips on how to store Spanish ham. A full ham should last for up to six weeks following the steps below. Note: Beware of ‘cheap’ Spanish hams as they will tend to be much lower grade to that available from the Spanish butcher.
1The first slice: in our carving page we detailed that the initial large slice from the ham should be retained. This slice is ideal for covering the exposed area of the meat (another reason to keep the ham carved level) as it will simply lay directly back on top of the ham keeping the meat moist and preventing it from drying out.
2Another technique to help prolong the life of the ham is to smear a little olive oil over the meat once you have finished carving. This also prevents the ham from drying out and can be used with the first slice tip above.
Olive oil is particularly beneficial to keep your ham in optimum condition if the ham is to be stored in your kitchen for example where humidity may be higher.
The ideal temperature to keep your ham is between 10°C and 15°C.
3Always cover your ham with a tea towel (you can also use the muslin sock the ham came in) This will protect the leg again, from excess humidity and moisture.
Using all three of the these techniques will ensure your hams longevity and keep It in tip top condition for up to 6 weeks.
Exceptions – The boneless, vacuum packed ham
Full bone in hams should never be placed in the fridge. There are exceptions however, boneless vacuum packed hams or vacuum packed pieces do need to be placed in the fridge to be kept fresh. After slicing these pieces of ham should be wrapped in a tea towel, cling film or foil to protect the exposed part of the meat.
If your ham has not been used for a few days the first slice can be discarded. Underneath will be fresh ruby red meat ready for slicing. The first slice can discolour after a prolonged period.
A mold can also form after prolonged periods on the exterior of the ham, this is completely harmless and can be removed by rubbing away with a damp cloth.
If your ham is to hang for any period of time “rotate” or “turn” the ham once weekly as it continues to cure. Factors such as light, temperature and air flow should be distributed evenly around the leg.
The “Punta” or furthest part of the ham away from the hoof generally has a more intense flavour – carve this last to discover a different flavour in one ham.
The hip joint located at the top of the leg is best for stews and stock, this is because more meat tends to be left around this area, it also has a more intense flavour and is always used in Spanish soups, etc.
Tips from Julian and Conchi (Carniceria de Julian, Orce Granada)