All Joselito hams are obtained from pigs of the Iberico breed that have been fed on acorns, grass and other natural products of the dehesa (wooded pastureland) where they range freely. As a result, they have certain distinctive characteristics that are discernible even from the outside:
A Joselito ham is a long, elegant shape with a slender foreleg, black hoof, V-shaped incision, and fat that oozes when pressed with the fingers.
Each ham also bears an identity tag and another, tamper-proof one that shows not only the serial number (ID) but also the year the ham started its curing process (like the system used for “vintage” wines). This enables our consumers to appreciate the end result of the long, slow curing and maturation processes.
There are four different areas on a ham, each with different characteristics.
The round side of the ham, the maza, is the juiciest part and the one on which there is most meat. This is considered the ‘noblest’ part of the ham because, as a rule, this is generally where the meat with the most ‘marbling’ of fat is to be found.
The babilla, the side opposite the maza, is narrower, and usually more thoroughly cured. This is the leanest and least juicy part of the ham.
The punta, the wide end of the ham (at the opposite end to the hoof), is full of flavor and rich in fat content.
The codillo, in the upper part of the maza, is particularly delicious – very sweet and aromatic.
Three types of knife are needed for carving a JOSELITO cured ham:
- A long, flexible knife (a ham knife) used for slicing
- A serrated knife (like a bread knife) used for removing the skin
- A short, sturdy knife with a pointed tip (a boning knife) used for making precise cuts in the more angular parts and for the important task of separating ham from bone.
You will also need a sharpening steel: this is essential for keeping knives sharp. Good, well-maintained tools will enable you to carve smoothly and effortlessly.
For those times when presentation is particularly important, tongs can be used for arranging cut slices on a serving dish.
The first thing is to decide where to start cutting your Joselito ham.
If it is going to be eaten quickly, the maza is the place to start, securing the ham in its stand with the hoof facing upwards. However, if the ham is likely to be eaten more slowly, as is generally the case at home, it is better to start at the babilla, the reason being that this is the least fatty part of the ham and will therefore tend to dry out sooner than the rest.
It is recommended that carving be done at a temperature of around 25ºC. For the flavors and aromas of a Joselito ham to be enjoyed to the full, it should be kept at that temperature for a few days before carving.
The first step is to use the serrated knife to make an incision around the foreleg in the narrow part of the ham, near the bone. This part is tough, so a firm hand is needed. Remove the skin by slicing towards the previous, crosswise cut: make sure that you always keep your free hand behind and above the knife to avoid cutting yourself. Wearing a chain-mail glove provides extra protection.
Once the skin has been removed, the outer layers of deep yellow-colored fat must be cut away: always start at the hoof end and slice towards the thigh bone.
If the whole Joselito ham is to be eaten within the same day, the skin and fat can be removed completely: this makes it easier to carve. However, if it is to be eaten over a longer period, you should only cut away the skin and fat from the part that is to be eaten immediately, leaving the rest in place as protection against the effects of exposure to the air.
Several of the slices cut from the first layers of white fat should be set aside. They will come into play later as protection for the ham once you have finished slicing. It is very important for the cut area of the ham to be clean and clearly delineated so that it can be covered to prevent its drying out and taking on a rancid taste.
Be sure not to remove any white fat from the interior. Joselito ham’s healthy fats are the source of its marvelous flavor, in which the combination of fat and lean is a key element. This fat is aromatic, full of flavor, delicately juicy and, furthermore, good for you.
Start cutting in the part known as the maza. Use the ham knife intended for slicing. Beneath a first layer of fat is the lean meat, liberally marbled with fat.
When you reach the thigh bone, use the boning knife to cut decisively around the bone so that you can separate it from the ham: this will make it easier to extract slices from this part of the joint. As the bone reappears at surface level, repeat the same operation.
Continue cutting slices from the surface you started with and from the new surface, the punta, that has appeared behind the bone.
The blade of the knife should be pressed firmly against the ham, and the back-and-fore slicing movement should be slow and rhythmic without your ever having to exert force. If the knife is properly sharpened, it will glide along easily and respond to a light touch, rather like playing the violin. All your free hand has to do is take away the cut slices: remember to keep it above and behind the knife blade. The aim is to achieve small, thin slices some 4-5 cm long. All the slices should contain enough lean and fat meat for the flavor to be enjoyed to the full.
The cut surface must always be flat and perfectly horizontal without any steps or curves. If you find yourself veering from the horizontal, straighten out the surface immediately rather then letting anomalies get worse and spoil your enjoyment of the ham.
The various muscles within the maza are identifiable by their different color: try to cut slices from all over the surface so that their different flavors mingle.
The next bone that you come to as you carry on slicing is the femur. Once you have finished this part, turn the ham over in its stand, placing it with the hoof facing downwards.
Start with the babilla. This is a narrower part of the ham and it contains less fat: in consequence it will have matured more rapidly than the wider maza. Begin by cutting away skin and fat, just as you did with the maza, though in this case less fat should be removed. We recommend that you cut slices that incorporate a little edging of outer fat to make them more appetizing.
Turn the ham over again and continue slicing the punta.
The codillo, in the upper part of the ham, is a particularly flavorful part of the joint and can be cut either into chunks or slices.
When you reach the meniscus, use the boning knife to separate the bone from the ham. You will then be able to extract new slices without difficulty.
When you reach the fibula, make a deep cut and remove it using a levering action.
Once you have finished carving the ham to obtain slices, turn your attention to its more muscular parts. The meat from these can be cut up into taquitos (lardons), which can either be eaten as they are or used in cooking.
Superfluous fat (white only) can also be used to add extra flavor to all sorts of dishes: it’s a favorite with top restaurant chefs for that reason. Even the bone, despite having been picked completely bare, is an excellent source of flavor for meat and vegetable soups, stews and stock. For that sort of use it is usually sawn into medium-sized pieces which can even be frozen for future use.
Store your JOSELITO ham in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight unless you intend eating it right away. If the ham is going to be eaten within one month, store it at a temperature of around 25ºC. If it is to be kept for longer, it should be stored at around 15ºC.
A ham should preferably be stored hanging up so that it is not in contact with any surfaces. Remove its wrapping paper and hang it up, uncovered, to air.
Once a ham has been started, it is very important to store it properly to prevent it from drying out. This is where the slices of outer fat, which were set aside earlier, come into service.
Stick the slices of fat onto the exposed surface of the ham like a second skin. Next, wrap it tightly in position with cling film. This prevents contact with the air, and the fat will continue to feed the surface of the ham. Make sure that the whole of the cut surface is well covered by slices of fat.
Leaving slices of ham exposed to the atmosphere must be avoided at all costs. Always try to cut just as much as you need, and don’t cut it until just before it is to be eaten.
Joselito ham is a completely natural product with very special qualities. The fact that it is free from additives and preservatives means that it needs to be handled in a particular way and kept in conditions that are suitable as regards temperature, ventilation and moisture.
A ham is considered to have been well carved when it has yielded as much meat as possible and provided access to the finer points of its flavors and aromas. Carving cured ham is an art that improves with practice and needs to be done calmly and quietly. Enjoy the ritual and pay close attention to all the steps in the guide to ensure that you experience Joselito ham at its very best.
Slices should be arranged on a plate so that they overlap slightly –not too far apart, but not heaped on top of each other either. Slices should be thin and almost translucent, shiny, aromatic and juicy.
A good carver will also manage to cut slices in which the typically Ibérico fat and lean are represented: this is what gives the succulence and excellence that characterize our ham.
Serve at a temperature of around 25ºC.
When starting a ham which is to be eaten completely and immediately, it is a good idea to combine slices from different parts of the piece. That makes it possible to recognize and revel in the different aromas and nuances contained within each part of the ham.
Carving sometimes reveals white specks within the meat: these appear as a result of long curing and could be said to represent a quality guarantee. Technically speaking, they are crystallizations produced by precipitation of tyrosine, an amino-acid found in meat, brought about by the difference between the extremes of temperature that occur naturally in our cellars during the long curing process undergone by Joselito hams. These marks indicate positive attributes and should never be discarded.