Our step-by-step guide is the ultimate masterclass in how to perfectly carve a serrano ham that will sate your appetite and wow your guests.
Spain is renowned for its delectable cured meats. From moreish morsels of Mallorcan sobrasada to a lovingly carved whole serrano ham, you don’t have to go far in this wonderful country to find a regional variation on a pork-based delicacy.
Of all of the meats, it is the divine jamon – cured Spanish ham – that is the pride of traditional Spanish cuisine and Spaniards eat more of it per person than any other country in the world – and it’s easy to see why. For this is a showstopper of a meat that gets party guests talking, tastes unbelievably good, and requires a very specific, meticulous method for successful carving.
Serrano ham in particular is one of our most popular products at Basco, and this is largely because of the tantalising flavours created by the traditional curing process that has gone into every ham we stock. Before we can get into how to carve serrano ham well, we need to truly understand this curing process and the journey your jamon has been on before reaching your table.
AUTHENTIC SPANISH MEAT
There are different types of ham, each with its own unique taste, and it is the breed of pig that sets jamon apart. The two most well-known types of jamon in Spain are jamon iberico and jamon serrano. Iberian ham, which is also known as pata negra, comes from the black Iberian pig that is native to both Spain and Portugal, while serrano ham is from white hoofed breeds of pig.
Jamon serrano literally translates as ‘ham from the sierra’, or mountain range, and it is an aged ham that has been popular for millennia. Every jamon serrano is covered with sea salt for around 20 hours, then it is rinsed before being hung to dry in the cool mountain air for up to 15 months. During this curing time, the ham sheds up to 40 percent of its weight as the fat melts away and chemical changes mean that salty flavours imbue the meat.
From field to fork, every jamon available from Basco has undergone this transformative process. The ham we stock comes from Spanish Duroc pigs born in the Sierra de la Demanda region, an area in the provinces of Burgos and La Rioja in northern Spain. These animals were raised humanely, fed corn and cereals, and kept on lush pastures before undergoing the curing process and being transported to the UK.
SEAL OF APPROVAL
As it has such a measured curing time and can be an expensive product, it is so important to know the quality before you buy serrano ham. We only source animals that are ETG-certified, meaning that each of these meats has the accreditation for Guaranteed Traditional Speciality.
Plus, our supplier, Martinez Somalo, is a member of Consorcio del Jamon Serrano Español, the regulatory body established in 1990 that provides the seal of quality and ensures all of our hams meet the stringent criteria required. These criteria include key factors, such as how long the meat has been left to cure and whether it has a minimum fat cover of 1cm.
At every stage of the processing period, the Consorcio makes sure each supplier it is assessing is meeting all of the hygiene standards. This absolutely ensures the jamon is of the highest quality before it can be sold on.
FROM FIELD TO FORK
By the time you have made the decision to buy serrano ham and it is in your kitchen, it has already been on an impressive journey. Once you have brought it home and before you are ready to start carving by following our guide below, you will need to know the main key serrano ham storage tips in order to keep the meat at its tastiest.
A whole serrano ham continues to cure until it has been cut into, so you can keep it for up to 12 months, where the flavours will continue to intensify until you are ready to carve. If it still contains a bone, you will need to store it in a cool, well ventilated, and dry place, and you will need to either hang it by a rope or keep it in a serrano ham stand called a jamonero.
Storage rules change after it has been carved. To find out where it is best to keep it once you have made a start on carving, read the section below our guide.
Jamon serrano is an incredibly versatile meat, and our Somalo Serrano Gran Reserva ham is the perfect choice for a wide range of serrano ham recipes and other Spanish meat recipes. We tried an array of hams from across Spain before selecting this one – and when you taste it, you’ll see why this was worthy of our customers.
You can use it in everything from soups and stews, but it comes into its own when it takes centre stage on the table at a party. It is a meat that you can really show off and it is sure to get your guests talking. Whether finely sliced and beautifully presented or cut into chunks and placed in a stew, every mouth-watering mouthful is delicious.
However, before you make a start on carving serrano ham at your big event – in fact, before you even buy serrano ham – you will need to know how to cut it properly.
Here we bring you a guide to how to perfectly carve serrano ham leg so that you can get the most out of this complex cured meat:
1. BEFORE WE BEGIN: PREPARATION
Prior to carving the ham, you will need a serrano ham stand and a serrano ham knife for carving – in fact, you will need three knives: your ham-slicing knife, a boning knife, and a cooks knife, which has a wide blade. We stock a professional ham carving knife at Basco, and this is probably the best knife to cut serrano ham with.
There is no cooking required, so just fit the leg on the jamonero stand with the trotter facing upwards and check it is fastened. Ensure maximum grip by placing a damp cloth below the stand and make sure your hands are clean and dry at all times as they can get greasy as you cut into the meat.
2. SOMETHING TO CONSIDER
Before you begin cutting into the ham, consider how much of it is to be consumed. If it is not going to be eaten quickly and you are planning on eating it over a longer period, it is best to only cut the back fat from one part of the ham that is going to be eaten. This means the meat that isn’t being eaten will retain its quality. If you are eating the serrano ham over a longer period of time, begin with the part called the maza, then the punta and finally consuming the contramaza last of all.
3. THE FIRST CUT
Once you have decided upon how much is to be eaten, use the cooks knife to make a vertical cut around the ham hock. This is the starting point from where you will start slicing on both the maza and contramaza sides.
4. THE PEELING
Once the vertical cut has been made, begin to remove the outer layer of skin of the area you will start to carve. Use the boning knife to mark a small incision all-round the area you are going to peel and slowly start to trim the skin off. Peel the whole leg if it will be eaten quickly, or peel as you go if not. Be sure to keep the large slices of fat under the hard skin, in order to cover the ham to prevent it from drying if you’re not eating it all. Trim all the white fat until the ham meat starts to appear.
5. START SLICING
From the vertical cut, slice down the leg with the slicing knife, being sure to make every cut follow in the same direction and follow from the hock to the tip. These cuts should be made in parallel and have the width of the leg of ham and the length should be no more than 4 to 5cm.
It is important to add a quick safety note here: keep your non-slicing hand away from the blade and use it instead to hold the slices as they start to lift from the bone. Alternatively, use this hand to hold the tongs that hold the ham slices as they lift away.
6. PRESENTATION TIPS
Cutting serrano ham is all about keeping the slices thin. You want them to be almost transparent and they should be as wide as the ham and around 2 inches long. Present them on the plate with each slice overlapping. When serving your ham, you want to avoid it too being too cold. The optimal temperature to serve your ham in is around 20℃, or room temperature where it will have a lustrous appearance. This warmer temperature means the oleic acids in the ham begin to infuse with the saltiness of the cured meat and, like a beautiful red wine, the flavours are able to come to the fore.
7. WHERE TO USE THE MEAT
The meat nearest the bone is hard to slice well. This can be roughly cut into small chunks and used for soups or stews, while the jamon bone can also be used for adding flavour to a broth or soup. You can freeze the bone and use it later.
8. STORAGE NOTE
When it comes to serrano ham storage, it is best to keep it in a cool, dry place. Cover the exposed slicing area with the fat layers you saved earlier so that it doesn’t dry out – try to do this every time you’re not slicing – if you are finished with eating the ham for that sitting, wrap the whole of the leg with muslin cloth ready for next time. Covering the meat with the fat layers and muslin will preserve it of up to two weeks. If the ham has been left exposed to the air for a while, slice off and discard the first layer of exposed meat because this will be dry, tough and inedible. This is why we peel the ham leg; it helps to ensure the serrano ham lasts longer. Below the first layer is another layer that is still delicious. For any boneless meat or jamon that has been removed from the bone, pop this in the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap or, should you have some, butcher paper.
Now you know how to carve serrano ham leg, you will need to know how best to enjoy it. While we love gossamer-thin slices as a simple tapas dish, why not be adventurous and try this delectable ham in a bocadillo with some grated fresh tomato and olive oil? We stock some truly wonderful types of olive oil, including the sweet and delicately flavoured Hacienda Ipora.
This is a multifunctional meat that can add something extra to meatballs, a Spanish twist to fried eggs and ham for brunch, and it is a divine ingredient in salads. In fact, a favourite fruity pairing that you will find added to serrano ham is pears. The sweetness of the fruit combines with the salty flavours of the ham to create a wonderful combination of sweet and savoury – the ultimate combination to lift a salad to a new, flavoursome level.
You can’t have delicious cured meats without a glass of red, and rich fruity flavours of our Milenrama Rioja Tinto make for the ideal accompaniment We also, if you prefer white, recommend our LB1 Verdejo, a 2016 wine that has zesty citrus aromas that bring out the saltiness of the serrano ham.
So, whether you are planning a party and want to wow your guests, or you have simply always hankered after the opportunity to cut your own jamon serrano, take the plunge and buy serrano ham from us today. It will be an unforgettable taste sensation that allows you to enjoy living like a true Spaniard in the UK and will give you the chance to understand what makes jamon such an intrinsic part of Spanish cuisine.