How To Make Perfect Spanish Jamon Iberico: A Step-by-Step Guide
Jamon Iberico is a Spanish native cured meat from black hoof Iberian pigs in Spain. Anyone who visits Spain will know that not a day passes without being offered a plate of jamón. So deeply rooted is it in spanisches Essen culture that it is genuinely regarded as a seasoning rather than meat. You’ll find various types of Jamon Iberico, with each region having its unique style and flavor profile. Some are believed to be more prestigious than others, while others are more affordable. In this article, you will get to know how to make this jamón ibérico from the first big chill to the final days in the cellar:
The Cooling Chill
Once butchered, the jamón and paleta are carried to big refrigerators, where they are hung up and refrigerated for 24 hours until they reach temperatures below 39ºF.
Beveling & Beautification
The beautification method, or beveling stage, is about making a good-looking jamón and removing flaws. The unwanted fats are removed to give them a visually attractive and uniform shape and color. Next, it’s time to make that classic V-cut into the skin that makes the jamón recognizable. If a ham has minimal flaws or differences, it gets separated from the others but continues in the same curing process.
The hams are put in salt and kept at a temperature below 37ºF. They’re then left in salt according to their weights: for every kilo, the ham remains in salt for the entire day. Thus, if a jamón or paleta clocks in at 7 kilos, it must remain in salt for seven days. After this period, they spend time in the salting refrigeration room where the temperature and humidity are controlled (less than 39ºF and between 90% and 95% humidity).
To remove the salt, highly-pressured warm water (86ºF) and air are used to clean the salt entirely from the exterior. The salt is later recycled, and the hams are placed in clean containers and left at 39ºF before being hung by a rope from the ceiling and organized based on weight.
The Post-Salting Period
For the first month of curing, the temperatures are around 39ºF. Little by little, slowly raise the temperatures and lower the humidity levels. The process lasts about 90 to 120 days, depending on the paleta or jamón.
The Drying Room
Once the pieces move to the drying room, they are kept at room temperature. During the first summer, there is the “first sweat”. During this process, the hams and paletas are acutely monitored for changes in appearance or aroma, and they actually shrink by about 22%. They will stay in the drying room at room temperature (never going over 82ºF) until the following summer when they then go through their second sweat.
The Cellar Period
In the final stage, the hams and shoulders are moved to natural cellar rooms where they stay for 600-700 days (hams) and 558 (paletas) and are slowly cured to perfection. The jamon iberico regularly gets checked and tested, and special attention is given to those smells, colors, and other visual indicators that the process is moving along as it should.