Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What You Need To Know pt8, Jamón (Vegetarians Turn Away Now)

Ham, or rather Jamón, is a staple of Spanish cuisine. Not boiled ham, not cooked ham but really Jamón salted and dried in the wind on the hillsides of Extremadura or Teruel... ok that is the romantic version but there are a lot of very scared pigs in Spain looking at how they can escape or lose four limbs to avoid the inevitable hanging out on the hillside. So what do you need to know?

1) Jamón is a great delicacy and should not be confused with the reconstituted stuff found in tins in the UK called spam (Spare Parts and meat) An added bonus is that Jamón does not generally fill up your inbox with offers for Viagra and Free Business Cards (Yes I am talking to you Vistaprint)

2) The best Jamón is generally thought to be Pata Negra which you can tell by the large nail on the end of the leg being coloured black.

3) Jamón has to be sliced really thin to be appreciated as if it is too thick there is no way you will be able to chew it.

4) The packaging of Jamón is an ecologists nightmare. In packaged Jamón every slice is seperated by a thin plastic sheet so they do not stick together. The only way to make it even slightly more eco friendly is to buy the whole leg and go through the slicing routine whenever you fancy a nibble.

5) Needless to say Jamón is not for vegetarians.

6) Certain bars, in fact most of them, will have Jamón hanging over the bar. This explains the grease stains on the bar of course as every now and again some of the fat drips. There should be a little triangular catcher under the apex of the leg to catch it but this always seems to be in the wrong place and your beer or coffee in the right place to catch it.

7) Just like there are wine appreciation courses available there are also Jamón slicing courses. Well worth it so as not to waste most of your Christmas present

8) If you work in Spain your employer will most likely give you a hamper at Xmas which, if you are a favoured employee, will contain a leg of ham. You then spend the next few days buying a ham rack to put it on, getting and sharpening a special carving knife and applying a rarely used technique called cutting chunks off. After about a month when the flies are too engorged too actually bother flying anymore you will decide to give up the ghost. At that point you can actually send the ham to an expert cutter, usually the local butcher, and for a good sized fee he will return it to you as a bone and huge piles of finely cut meat. So just to summarise, you have to pay three times if someone gives you Jamón as a present.

Personally I love Serrano and wouldn't swap it for the World.

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