19 August 2010

Spanish Carving Knives (buying)

A carving knife is a carving knife right? Spanish hams are a challenge, ok for the ham enthusiast who knows what to do but what if your ham has been purchased for you as a gift? There are two main pieces of equipment you need to carve a ham - the ham stand, sometimes known as a ham clamp or "jamonero" in Spanish and the ham knife. The purpose of the stand is to keep the ham steady, the knife and to a large degree your skill does the rest.

There are many types of ham knife available in Spain and over the internet, the general rule and our advice would be to buy the best you can afford. A good quality knife will last a lifetime, a cheap and cheerful model probably only the lifetime of the ham, so...if your planning on another ham buy a decent knife (quality is key) as it will certainly prove more effecient and economical in the long run.

Experts use a trio of knives, the flexible ham knife which usually has a blade of 24cm or longer, the short boning knife for getting around the hip bone and bottom end of the ham and also a kitchen knife or "Santuko" knife which is great for both general purpose use and removing that first slice when "breaking in" to your ham and removing the outer, tougher skin. Although three knives are not essential it will certainly make life easier and help you achieve the best results.

Ham knives have a felixible blade, similar to a salmon knife where thin slices are essential. Experts agree that correct carving enhances both flavour and texture so the correct knife plays an important role.

Expect to pay 22.00 euros/18.00gbp for an entry level knife of good quality, this will get you a 24cm blade ideal for carving smaller hams and front leg paleta's. Further up the range you can expect to see knives with longer blades (up to 35cm) and of course professional models which will last a lifetime.

A good knife and ham stand does not of course guarantee the best results which is why author and photographer Pilar Esteban Ordorica has published what is without doubt the most comprehensive book on Spanish ham carving available. A full book review will be coming soon on this beautifully illustrated piece but what we can say is that the approach is very different - less mundane text and more visual, from a practical point of view the book delivers on all levels - "Cortar Jamon" ~ The Art of Carving Spanish Ham is a must read for any budding Spanish ham enthusiast and professional alike.

You can discover Pilar's book and a comprehensive selection of ham carving knives on the Orce Serrano Hams website (22.00 - 79.00 euros). Ham carving questions? Why not drop us an email or leave a comment.


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