29 (Wed) February 2012
at CJH and KKH’s place
-Oksu, Seongdong, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
w DJ, CBD
Jamón Serrano is a type of Spanish ham. It’s a whole leg of raw pork that’s drained of blood, salted for a couple months, washed, dried, and left hanging for at least 9 months and up to 2 years. The name means “ham (jamón) of the mountains (serrano)” in reference to the tradition of curing the hams at higher elevations, where the air is cooler. Hams made from Iberian pigs are jamón ibérico. A similar process results in Italian prosciutto. The meat is tough and dense, thus requiring it to be shaved paper-thin, making it smooth and silky. While the taste of a given ham depends on various factors, including the curing agents used, the specific drying process, the time of aging, as well as the pigs themselves, the meat generally has an intense pork flavor, salty and sweet, lean yet rich, some might say “gamy” or even a bit “fishy.” Very expensive, an authentic whole jamón from Spain, for example, weighing around 7 kg, yielding around 4 kg of meat, sells for $1000 to $1500 on the internet, about $25 per 100 gm.
Somewhat excited, somewhat disappointed, CJH called me with news that she had scored a whole jamón. Alas, when she’d sampled some the evening before, not knowing how to cut it or serve it, the results had fallen far from expectations. She suggested that I come and do something with it, and we could invite the rest of the gang and have a party. I packed my knives and headed over.
It was a locally produced dry-cured ham. By Andong Bonghwa Chuksan Nonghyeop (안동봉화축산농협), an agricultural collective in Gyeongsangbuk-Do that packages the ham under the brand name Coresciutto (꼬레슈토). Their promotional materials claim that the ham is made in the tradition of jamón but doesn’t provide any specifics. At just 200,000 won for the entire ham, it was worth a shot.
Never having worked with anything remotely similar to a whole leg of ham, I was at a loss about what to do when I first laid hands on it. For starters, it was huge, the biggest piece of animal that I’ve ever handled in my life, much too large for a single unexperienced person to tackle alone without a stand to stabilize the thing, so I needed someone to hold it steady while I went at it. Also, the skin was so thick and hard that I was unable to shear off pieces directly. So, I used a serrated bread knife to saw through the skin, then a filet knife to carve a sizable chunk from around the bone and sinew within, and finally a sashimi knife to remove the skin and slice the meat as thinly as I could. It was the most food-related fun that I had in years.
With the meat, I made small sandwiches on baguettes wedges plus mayo, dijon mustard, cracked black pepper, fresh lemon juice, sliced onion, romaine. The pepper and lemon and onion helped to balance out the pork flavor and give the ham a lively pop. Though I have very limited experience with dry-cured hams, this one seemed pretty good to me, certainly good enough for sandwiches.
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