11 May 2010

A New Kind of Spanish Ham

Just when you thought it was not possible for Spanish serrano hams to get any better along comes a "jamon" that is just a little bit different. The guys at the secedero (curing house) call these hams "dulce" which literally means sweet, in a way the hams are on the sweet side in the fact that they are not salty hence the loosley used term. The key to these hams is their low salt content...

Having never seen a ham "washing machine" before it was quite impressive to see it in action. Normally hams are buried in salt, usually for one day per kilo of initial weight, the salt is then wiped off and the hams then hung to cure. These serrano hams from Granadul in the town of Guadix in Granada are fully washed, which means that the curing process from then on is much more of a natural affair and the resulting flavour is, well, sweeter than most.

The hams are hung over six high in a curing house which is closely monitored for humidity and circulated with fresh air - fresh being the word as when you approach the secadero the backdrop is the spectacular Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Its allways an experience going to these places, for the guided tour we were obliged to get kitted up in the usual plastic overalls, the biggest problem for me being my size 11 feet which allways prove too big for the plastic bags you have to wear! No cameras allowed, a bit of a shame but you have to respect the secrecy of the secadero who didn't want photographs taken. Reminds you a little of F1 motorsport where the competition are allways curios as to what goes on outside their own paddock.

One thing the Granadul business does have though is no less than three tapas bars in the town, the first of which is right beside the curing house itself. A typical Andalucian bar with a splendid atmosphere and great "menu del dia" with jamon serrano being at the top of the list. The place is crammed with hams - hanging from the ceiling by the dozen in true tapas bar style and on ham racks next to deli counters which display a range of cured embutidos such as chorizo, lomo tenderloin, morcilla and several sausages. A foodie heaven for the Spanish cured meat enthusiast.

Our visit was made all the more pleasurable when the secadero picked up the bill, great to work with local businesses that add those unexpected touches... Low salt hams from Granadul have previously only been available in Spain and Germany, there are 3 different types which are distinguished by how long they have been cured:

Reserva - 14 Months
Gran Reserva - 18 Months
Gran Reserva - 24 Months

The two year old gran reserva is a bit special, some longer cured hams can be salted for a few days more during curing as they tend to be bigger in the first place (hams lose up to 40% of their initial weight during curing) these low salt examples though do suprise with a sweet flavour and a great texture.

Jamon Jamon! The three examples are now available after much deliberation and various trips to other curing houses - Granadul hams were by far the best. Need some Manchego to go with that? This May every customer who purchases a serrano ham from the online deli will receive a 1kg wheel of Manchego cheese from La Mancha with our compliments so if you fancy a Spanish ham paired up with Spain's most famous cheese this Spring bank holiday why not pop into the delicatessen and take advantage of the offer.


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