Jamón is the culinary treasure of Spain and Spaniards enjoy more ham per person than anywhere else in the world. In Spain it is common to see a whole ham resting on a stand in the family kitchen, ready for anyone to cut a thin slice for a snack or a treat. A whole jamón can easily be stored in your kitchen and used daily for tapas or in recipes.
Store your whole, bone-in jamón in a cool, dry and ventilated place, either resting in a holder (jamonero) or hung by the rope. To preserve the freshness, moisture and flavor of your ham as it is consumed, always cover the sliced area with plastic wrap or a bit of the removed fat layer after slicing. If the meat has been left exposed to the air for some time, discard the first slice of the exposed area, as it will be dry and tough. On the other hand, your boneless jamón needs to be stored in the refrigerator, wrapped in butcher paper. If it arrives vacuum packed, be sure to remove the original plastic casing. Boneless hams can be divided into pieces, or can be sliced on an electrical slicer. Serve the jamón at room temperature.
Remove the layer of fat from the top and the sides until the meat is exposed. Trim the fat as you slice. Cut small, very thin slices, including some of the marbled fat, if your ham is an Ibérico. Slice downwards with your free hand behind the knife. If you plan to consume the entire ham in a day or two, you can remove the skin and fat completely. If not, it is better only to to remove the skin and outer fat layer from the area to be sliced that day. To enjoy the flavor and texture of a fine jamón, slice the ham with a long sharp knife in the following order: first the rump half, then the rump end and lastly the shank.
The meat nearest the bone is difficult to slice well, and can be cut into small chunks for use in soups and stews. The ham bone itself is also excellent for flavoring broths, soups and stews, and may be cut and frozen for later use. Ham should be consumed at room temperature, when it will have a lustrous appearance. When too cold, the fat will appear opaque. Any ham that is cut should be consumed immediately, or covered in plastic wrap, to avoid prolonged exposure of the ham to air. In addition, each time you slice the ham, you should protect the cut area with butcher paper, a cloth moistened with olive oil, or with a bit of the trimmed skin and fat layer, so that the cut area remains fresh. To further protect the ham, you may cover it with a clean dish towel.
You may notice natural molds and bits of salt on the surface of the ham – these occur naturally in the curing and maturation process. In fact mold is an indication of a properly aged ham. Simply wipe clean with vegetable oil and a cloth.
Mold: A thin layer of mold may appear on whole hams. This penicillin-like mold is completely harmless. It can be removed with a clean, damp cloth, with a cloth and oil, or a vegetable brush.
Small white spots or chalky granules: may form during the curing process. They are amino acids found in aged meat and cheese products and are perfectly safe to eat.
Iridescent sheen: This effect can be seen on the cut surface of the ham and in certain parts of the meat. The coloring sometimes has a metallic appearance. It is insignificant as far as the quality of the ham is concerned.
Salt: Sometimes salt may form on the surface of the ham in dry conditions. This inorganic salt does not affect the flavor of jamón and can be brushed or wiped away.
White film: This may be seen on the cut surface of whole or boneless hams. The film is mostly comprised of amino acids and salt precipitate and is perfectly safe. We recommend that you simply discard the discolored slice.
Fat: Whole hams tend to be rather fatty, which protects the meat and helps it keep longer. Remember the old axiom: "Fat is flavor."