When I first moved to Spain I thought Jamón smelled like bad breath and BO. I couldn’t believe the Spanish obsession, as most often the aftertaste of the ham and the stringy fat left me feeling less than impressed.
Readers, I was young and impressionable, and I hope you’ll forgive me. Flash forward 5 years and Jamón Serrano is one of my favourite things in the world. Chewy thin slices of heaven. The fat melts like butter in your mouth. Salty and seductive, I love the way its eaten: on its own, a simple plate of meat.
But I have been taunted since those days inPamplonaby the full size legs of jamón, those hidden mysteries you see hanging on the roof of any Spanish tapas bar worth its salt. I knew many Spainards kept a leg of ham in their kitchen and carved it as they went – but how could I ever do that?
The answer came from my own personal jamón saviour, a master carver by the name of Chuse Valvor.
One corner of a triumvirate of Spanish glory (the others being Codorniu and Catalan Cooking), I met Chuse when invited to a preview event of an upcoming cooking class that will involve an intro to cava tasting, cooking dinner with Rachel McCormack of Catalan Cooking and finally, an introduction to all things piggy and salty with Chuse.
While the class was more of a taster than practical application, it broke down a huge wall for me: I now feel empowered enough to buy a stand, buy a leg of ham, and have at ‘er. I know about how to store the ham, how its made, what classes and grades there are and I had a small go and carving up a few slices myself.
I also got to taste Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, the most expensive and highly prized ham inSpain– which was unbelievable. The fat was rendering itself at room temperature and was beautifully flavourful. It is the aftertaste, I was told, that distinguishes Bellota ham from other grades. The salt seemed to be contained entirely in the flesh, leaving a lovely contrast with each bite.
For those interested in finding out more about this great event, please click here.