Sergio Bellido. Master Slicer
1 - Pre-slice
Everyone has a different ham holder or slicing board at home - different heights, materials, clamps, and so on.
Here I am going to show you some of the most common ones and briefly explain how they are used, as well as the most frequent mistakes people make when slicing an exclusive Fundación Serrano ham.
I personally prefer a low ham board or one which is adjustable in height.
2 - Tools
For perfect slicing, we need:
2.1.- A long, flexible knife, which should always be well-sharpened.
2.2- A short boning knife.
For those just beginning to slice, or for non-expert slicers, I recommend a more rigid tip.
2.3.- A knife steel
Which we will use when our knives become dull.
2.4.- Ham stand or ham board.
3 - Frequently Asked Question: Where Should I Start?
Before placing the piece in the holder, I am going to give you some tips on where to start slicing.
3.1.- If you are going to consume the piece over a period of more than 15 days, I recommend starting at the narrower, leaner area called the flank.
The hoof should be facing downwards, regardless of whether it is a right leg or a left leg. (place the piece in the ham holder flank-side up).
3.2.- But if you are going to consume the piece in less than 15 days, I recommend starting at the wider area, called the cushion, which gives a greater yield.
In this case, the hoof should be facing upwards for both left and right legs (place the piece in the ham holder cushion-side up).
4 - Placing the Piece in the Ham Holder
4.1.- Place the Fundación Serrano Ham in the ham holder and secure it until it is completely immobile, regardless of the type of ham holder or ham board being used and the part of the ham we are going to slice.
5 - How to Cut the Rind without Risk of Cutting Yourself
5.1.- Starting the cushion, starting the flank and placement of hands to avoid risk.
Find the hock bone and make a vertical cut towards the area of the fibula.
Next, remove the rind and other impurities which could alter the flavor and aroma of the area.
Examples for cutting the cushion
5.1.2.- With your free hand, firmly grasp the hoof to cut into the hock.
5.1.3.- Place the ham with the hoof in a vertical position, and using both hands, make a deep cut in the hock. The rind should be removed from the butt end towards the hoof to avoid cutting yourself.
5.1.4.- Once we have cut into the hock, the hand holding the piece should be moved out of the slicing area to stabilize the ham in order to avoid possible injury from the knife.
Only cut the rind and excess fat off of the part that is going to be immediately consumed. Save the pieces for later use.
Examples for cutting the flank
5.1.5.- With your free hand, firmly grasp the hoof to make the cut at the knuckle joint. This will only be a superficial cut to mark the piece, not like the cut made to the cushion area. Once we have made this small cut, the hand holding the piece should be moved out of the slicing area to stabilize the ham in order to avoid possible injury from the knife.
It is important to note that here we do not cut the rind as far as the hock because then we would loosen the leathery part from this area and the knuckle joint would move, making it much more difficult to slice.
As is the case when slicing the cushion, we will only cut the rind and excess fat off of the part that is going to be immediately consumed. Save the pieces for later use.
6 - Slicing the Piece
For perfect slicing, the knife should slice through the entire width of the cushion or flank. This way we will obtain a mixture of all parts of the ham and a greater balance of the sweet and savory parts of the piece.
7 - How to Avoid Bowing and Maintain a Straight Line
7.1.- The slicing line is different depending on the type of ham holder we use.
If your holder holds the hoof at an angle, the slicing line will not be perpendicular to the board, as the femur will be at an approximate 45º angle to the board. The straight lines of the holder will be our guide.
But if we want a straight slicing line, we can add a wooden wedge to the holder which will then give us a more appropriate cutting surface, parallel to the table, which will be our guide.
7.2.- Hip bone in the cushion
One way for non-expert knife wielders to get around the hip bone is to turn the holder and slice from the hock towards the bone, saving the hip or "butt" area for later.
Once we have consumed this part, it will be easier to slice the remaining parts. Here we should slice from the outside in, always keeping our free hand out of the slicing line.
This technique can be repeated as we slice the remaining part of the cushion.
7.3.- Hip bone in the flank
As before, we will turn the holder and slice towards the hip bone, saving the tip of the flank, or butt, for later.
The butt should be sliced from the outside in, towards the hip bone.
This technique can be repeated as we slice the remaining part of the flank.
8º Slicing the Butt and Finishing the Ham
Once we have reached this point, we can finish slicing the butt part of the ham, both on the cushion and the flank side, depending on whether it is a left or a right leg. Always slice from the outside in.
Another possibility is to lay the ham so that the hip area is flat. Remove the outer layer of fat and slice from the outside in, from the butt towards the hip bone.
Remove the outer rind as explained before. We can slice until we reach the tibia and the femur, and then we can cut the rest in chunks for stews and other dishes. This way we will have sliced our ham in a nearly professional manner, and we will have made the most of all of it.
9 - The Most Common Risks When Slicing
When slicing the piece, you should always slice away from the hand holding the piece.
Protecting the hand holding the piece with a kitchen towel, for example, does not keep us safe from cuts. Ham and boning knives can easily slice through fabric, as we often use a certain amount of strength when slicing the ham.
Always keep your hands out of the slicing line. You can hold the ham steady without grasping the hoof when making horizontal cuts.
Make sure the piece is well-anchored in the holder so it does not move or slip unexpectedly.
And of course, the most important thing is to always keep your knives sharp. This makes slicing much easier and there will be a lower risk of cutting yourself.
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