Already got a ham at home?
Whether you are one of the lucky ones who received a ham for Christmas or maybe you buy this wonderful product all year round, you might be interested in our recommendations on how to keep your ham at home in the best possible condition.
Let’s start with a few guidelines if you don’t want to tuck in straight away. The first thing you should know is that ham is a living product. This means that it is going to continue maturing right up to when it is eaten. Consequently, it is very important how and where you keep it. If it came in a cotton cover, the first thing you should do is take this off, as it can be the ideal place for mites and mould to appear. The same happens if it comes in a box. It would be best to ‘undress’ the piece and, if possible, hang it from its rope in a dry, cool place. If you have a spacious pantry, this would be the perfect place. If not, a basement or a garage will do. However, we recommend that, if the ham has come out of its natural drying area with the right level of curing, you should start eating it straight away.
Once the ham has been started, we come across an infinite number of theories. So, far from dispelling false myths or going against what so many professionals might say, we are simply going to give you a few tips from someone we think is extremely knowledgeable about ham in our country: ham cutter Pedro José Pérez Casco. From his butcher’s shop in Puebla de la Calzada (Badajoz), Pedro tells us not only how he does this professionally but also what we can do at home.
Once you have finished cutting, always using the right knives, collect up the fat that you’ve removed from the ham and rub the surface of the cut on its whitest part, particularly the lean part. You can get a similar effect by scratching the marbling with the blade of your knife and spreading the fat like butter. This leaves a fine protective layer, similar to what the ham would have naturally, thereby stopping it from drying out and oxidising.
When covering it, Pedro gives us two tips depending on how long you think you’re going to wait before cutting it again. If this time does not exceed 48 hours, after rubbing it with its own fat, you can cover the cutting area with transparent film (not the whole piece, only the part that we have opened up with the cutting and the fat). However, the plastic is going to stop any humidity from escaping, which is the ham’s natural way of drying. Consequently, you should not cover your ham with film for more than these two days as undesirable mould will start to grow and if it doesn’t ruin the whole piece, you’ll certainly have to throw away the affected parts.
If you think that you are not going to cut your ham for a while, the best thing to do, after rubbing the fat, is to cover it with a clean cotton cloth to stop the light affecting its properties.
Professionally, if the ham is to be left for several days, Pedro’s recommendation is to use waxed aluminium foil. The waxed side should be in contact with the fatty film that we have created, whilst the aluminium will protect it from the light. Given that this type of paper is usually found in butcher’s shops, but it is not easy to buy it in regular stores, you might use separate waxed paper and then aluminium foil from your regular store and try this professional trick in your own home.
We know that this is a contentious issue, as the saying going: “cada maestrillo tiene su librillo” (there’s more than one way to skin a cat). We’d encourage you to give Pedro José Pérez Casco’s tips a try and show us how you keep your ham in your own homes. We hope we’ve helped.