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How to cut a ham

Cutting a ham is an art that enhances the flavor and aroma of the Iberian ham.

Advice before cutting

The objective is to get the most out of the Iberian ham ensuring the security of the cutter and making good use of the piece. So it is important to consider this basic advice:

1.- Provide an appropriate place that allows freedom of movement and does not endanger any of those around us while waiting as we cut.

2.- Cutting material well sharpened: you will cut with less effort and without any unexpected slip of the knife, and obtain thin and regular slices. During the process, the edges of the knives gradually wear down. Have a sharpening steel handy to help you to maintain the edge of the blade.

3.- A ham holder that allows you to securely hold the ham: it will also help you to make best slices safely. Start with the hub putting the ham with the leg upwards.

4.- Be careful with the supporting hand: always keep in mind the moving direction of the knife and that it may have unexpected slips of it that might have bad consequences.

5.- Patience and enjoyment: cutting a ham is a ritual that enjoys both the cutter and observers. Take you time to get the best chips.



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Material needed

  • video materiales de corteA ham holder, which provides a good and comfortable fixing, and occupies the least possible when stored. For those who are starting in the cutting of the ham, a ham holder allowing to place the ham horizontally is recommended, as it will facilitate the cutting work. The best system for fixing a ham is using a screw in the cane.
  • A wide bladed knife, long (18-20 cms) and strong to clean the ham from its skin and fat.
  • A shorter knife, strong with a narrow and rigid blade, of around 10 cm. That we will use to separate the lean from the bone area.
  • A ham knife, flexible and long ( 30 cm.), with a narrow blade and without serrated edge. It is the key to get thin slices of ham, so it is important to always keep its edge in good condition to see how the blade slips alone down the cutting surface, almost without help.
  • A sharpener steel, to maintain the sharpness of the knives. Pass the knife edge repeatedly on both sides of the sharpener steel, holding it with the left hand and driving the knife at an angle of 45º with the right hand. The sharpener steel is an element that helps maintain a sharp knife, but not a substitute of a professional sharpener.

One tip for added safety: knives with non slip handle and/or cap will help avoid cuts.


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How to cut an Iberian ham

 

video el corte del jamón It is generally recommended to start cutting the mace, since it is the most appreciated and succulent part, perfect for a rapid consumption of the piece.

 

 

 

 

 

jamón ibérico1.- To start cutting the mace, place the ham with the hoof upwards. In this position, the mace of the ham is facing us, its knuckle is at the top of the piece, under the hoof, and the tip is the final part of the ham at the other side of the hoof.

 

 

el corte del jamón 2.- Hold firmly the ham in the ham holder with its safety, a suction pad or similar and check that the ham does not move and it is at a height that allows you to cut easily.

 

 

 

el corte del jamón3.- With the big knife, outline the cane surrounding it with the edge. You have to make a cut perpendicular to the leg, at 2cm below the small bone that stands out of the cane.

 

 

el corte del jamón4.-Then make a deep cut, down to the bone. Cut a wedge shape portion, a little below the diagonal line marked. Thanks to this special start cutting way, you can taste the when you flip the ham to cut its underside.

5.- Remove the rind and fat from the part you have planned to cut. Thus you prevent musty flavor in the cut slices. It is advisable to debark gradually as you progress in the cut in order to prevent the ham from drying.

 

el corte del jamón

6.- Debarking does not mean eliminating all the bacon that covers the ham. Leave between 1 or 2 cm of bacon “clothing” the ham, and keep two long slices of bacon to cover the cut when finished.

7.-The cut has only one correct direction and marks the axis of the ham. With this reference, start to cut from the top of the piece. As you progress you will go closer to the bone. Always progress in the cut with a steady hand and the ham knife well hold. That will prevent ruts. It is important to maintain a visually straight cut.

el corte del jamón el corte del jamón 8.- How to avoid bones: when cutting in the zone of the mace, the first bone you find is the hip, that appears at the end of the slice. You have to surround it with the short boning knife , the closest to the bone but without cutting it. If you cut the bone, you will find splinters in the slices.

9.- If you continue with the cutting, you will find the inner ham bone called femur. Like the hip, separate the lean from the bone tip which stands out, at level with the bone. You have to graze it with the blade of the knife. Avoid poke the ham more than you need, so that you avoid rusting.

Continue cutting as long as you get regular chips. When too complicated, turn the ham round in the ham holder.

One trick: Did you know that the slices of ham can be frozen? Just be careful to remove them from the freezer with enough time to unfreeze naturally, never by applying heat directly.

el corte del jamónel corte del jamón10.- With the hoof downward, the surface that is to cut is called “babilla”. The cut must start from the top of the ham and parallel to the cut you have done in the mace. Do not forget to remove the surface needed from yellow fat and rinds.

11.- From the first cuts you will find the rump bone, located at the tip of the ham. On the opposite side of the slice, you will also find the patella bone. Surround them with the boning knife, patiently as it is the most important operation to obtain thin slices and keep a straight cut.

The slices of the “babilla” are leaner their edges are more consistent due to a greater curing and lower proportion of bacon in this area of the ham.

The bone surface will increase as you progress. When it is difficult to obtain regular chips, it is time to stop cutting.

12.- How to make use of all the ham:jamón aprovechamiento

When you can not get more regular slices as the bones do not permit following the cut straight, you can slicer the ham laterally and get some more rations. If you prefer, make Iberian taquitos with the lean left on the ham: it is a very delicious snacking.

You can also use the bones to flavor stews or soups. Sawing the bones into pieces with the size of a fist, you can freeze them for use at home at different times. Your butcher can cut them safely.


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The cutting of the Iberian shoulder

video el corte de la paletaIt is generally recommended to start cutting the mace, since it is the most appreciated and succulent part.

1.-To start cutting the mace, place the shoulder in the ham holder with the hoof upwards. In this position, the mace of the ham is facing us, its knuckle is at the top of the piece, under the hoof, and the tip is the final part of the ham at the other side of the hoof.

 

 

 

el corte de la paletael corte de la paleta2.- Then make a transversal cut on the top of the knuckle down to the bone. Surround then the bone with the blade of the big debarking knife. Wiith the same knife, debark the zone you want to cut and keep two long slices of bacon to cover the shoulder when the cut is finished.

 

 

el corte de la paletael corte de la paleta3.- When debarking and removing the yellow fat, keep some slices of bacon to cover the muscular part. Do not forget to clear only the zone you need to cut.

4.-Start the cut from the top of the shoulder, parallel to the longitudinal axis of the workpiece. After cutting some slices, the shoulder blade appears.

Due to its flat morphology, insert the knife between the surface area and the lean to separate the lean and the bone. That way slices will release when you keep cutting. This task has to be made when you cut both the mace and its opposite side. It is the major difficulty when you have to cut the foreleg of the pig.

el corte de la paleta5.- If you continue slicing, the bone connecting the shoulder blade to the can ham appears in the middle section of the slice. Mark it with the small boning knife and separate the bone from the lean. It is important to keep the cut straight.

When the complete bone appears or you are no longer able to keep the cut straight, spin the shoulder around and start cutting this zone.

el corte de la paletael corte de la paleta6.- To cut this part of the shoulder, start the cut just as in the area of the mace: from the top of the shoulder , from the knuckle to the bone, straight, perpendicular to the cut you have done in the area of the mace.

 

7.- This zone has a smaller use. Just starting to cut, you will find again the obstacle of the bone. As before, mark it and separate it from the lean, make chips until you could not cut regular slices. It is important to be patient, it is the best way to enjoy cutting and get the best chips.

aprovechamiento8.- How to make use of all the shoulder:

When you cannot get more regular slices because the bones do not permit to keep the cut straight, you can slice the shoulder laterally and get some rations more. If you prefer, make Iberian taquitos with the lean left on the shoulder: it is a very delicious snacking.

You can also use the bones to flavor stews or soups. Sawing the bones into pieces with the size of a fist, you can freeze them for use at home at different times. Your butcher can cut them safely.


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Presentation of the slices on the plate

  • presentación lonchas en el platoThe best way to present Iberian ham is placing thin slices in a shallow dish as making the cut. The less are the slices handled, the best they keep aroma and flavor.
  • The ideal temperature for cutting an Iberian ham is 20º-23º C. At that temperature the fat begins to be creamy and their best aromas are released. And if we intermingle in the same plate slices of different areas, we will be able to distinguish between different nuances at every bite.
  • A serving of Iberian ham usually has 30-35 ham slices, about 80-100 gr, placed from the outside to the inside of the dish.
  • The perfect chip is a thin slice of ham, almost transparent, veined with fat and with a shiny appearance that practically melts in your mouth. It must have the same width as the piece of ham or shoulder that has been cut and a length of about 6cm.
  • We can also call them, “tapitas” of Iberian ham.

 



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Conservation of the ham after the cutting

With a few simple tips on how to conserve the ham once started, you can avoid alterations of taste, drying or prevent that moisture spoils it definitively.conservación del jamón

  • When starting a ham, keep 2 long slices of the overlying lean bacon and covers the area with them to finish the cut. You will get a double effect :
    • You will avoid the piece of ham to dry up.
    • The smells are not altered as you are using its own fat. Never oil or butter the piece cut because it alters its qualities.
  • And if you use its own bacon, cover it with a cotton cloth. Dampness and hygiene are better maintained.

One trick: The professional cutters use a very simple one, but very effective that prevents Iberian ham to dry. With the ham knife, they scrape the surface of the bacon they are cutting, and they spread that fat all over the cut when they decide to stop cutting. Then, they cover the cut with a slice of its own bacon. You may find it helpful if between cuts you do not let pass a long time.


The ideal place for a perfect conservation of an Iberian ham is a cool and dark pantry or stay that maintains a temperature between 20º-22º.

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