The Serrano Ham Process
Very few ingredients are used to prepare a Serrano ham, from the time it is cut from the pig to the moment it reaches the table: a pinch of sea salt, and time, patience, care and the air that encourages curing, the appearance of delicate aromas, the fine texture and the unmistakable flavor of the most traditional and respected product of Spanish cuisine.
It is a completely natural process which combines traditional, artesian methods with quality and modern technology: flavor and food safety. Respect and desire at the table.
The Spanish ham industry is making giant steps in technology, using state-of-the-art techniques and tools which guarantee a quality product and safe process. Belts, sorters, scales, presses... Risks are eliminated and safety is guaranteed. We are working to improve quality. We are working towards the perfect product. We are working for Serrano ham.
The process is done at the same pace as was used in the second century B.C., when the Romans tried different methods for preserving meat. It is a process which follows a natural seasonal cycle: cold temperatures to begin, which correspond to winter months; then little by little the temperatures become milder as we move into spring. Then the hot, dry summer when the temperatures soar, to end the cycle with the climatic stability of autumn. Let's explain in a little more detail.
The process begins by selecting the raw material with an eye for quality and a strict control of the fresh pieces which are brought to the factory: first, a visual check, and then classification by size and weight. Checks are made for uniformity, quality of the meat, the absence of defects, a minimum weight, delivery conditions and fat content, all essential factors for obtaining a quality Serrano ham. The hams are identified individually before they are placed in bins, where they are completely covered in sea salt.
Salting: Salt is the only ingredient added to the fresh ham from healthy, well-fed pigs. Once protected with salt, we proceed in the traditional manner: a brief, 10-day period in cold store with high humidity... Winter... The salt penetrates the muscle, aided by the environmental conditions. The salt protects the ham from undesired microorganisms and becomes the essential element in stimulating the reactions in the ham which lead to curing. It is a protective barrier and the element which will help in curing and in the appearance of the ham's signature flavors and aromas.
Following this brief period in the salting chambers, the hams are washed and the excess salt is removed from the outer surface. They are then identified and hung in post-salting or standing sheds, where they remain for close to two months in winter-like conditions: low temperature (maximum 6ºC) and high humidity. The salt penetrated the ham quickly during the salting phase, and now it is distributed slowly throughout the muscle mass so the entire piece obtains its characteristic uniform salt content.
With time, and with the change of the season, the Serrano ham begins the curing phase. Temperatures rise slowly and humidity decreases. The hams sweat, losing liquid and obtaining their characteristic aroma. A walk through a drying shed when the typical aromas of Serrano ham are beginning to form is an unforgettable experience. These are now the summer months.
After 4 or 5 months, the Serrano ham should be stabilized. It should be kept at ambient temperature, coinciding with the autumn climate, until the specialist -the maestro jamonero, the hand of the artist- decides when each Serrano ham is ready. A piece-by-piece check is made to determine the degree of firmness of the meat, the shape of the ham, the absence of defects and other aspects unique to each producer. It is a highly specialized task requiring expert knowledge and extensive experience. Each Serrano ham is a world unto itself, and each requires special treatment and a specific curing period which can only be controlled by the continuous inspection of the maestro jamonero.
We now have the finest Serrano hams ready for packaging and shipping. Now all that is left is to treat them as is merited by the star product of Spanish cuisine: extreme care and respect. Labeling and shipping. The hams are carefully packaged in different formats: whole pieces, de-boned center pieces, hunks, slices, chunks... So many formats for so many different ways to enjoy Serrano ham.
We mustn't forget the seal which ensures confidence. The Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) seal, the recognition of the European Union of our most special, traditional product which has undergone the strictest quality control. This is the seal that guarantees full compliance with the minimum defined levels of quality which allow a product to be labeled SERRANO HAM.
And finally, selection of the finest Serrano hams which receive the counter label of the Fundación, a label which guarantees that these products are a selection of the very finest Serrano hams.
And when we get home, bliss. Treat your ham well, with the respect it deserves: a nice cut, exquisite preparation... Enjoy this jewel. It is ours - traditional, natural, safe, and of the highest quality. We need to value the good things in life.
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