After more than 30 years in the trade and more than 35,000 hams cut by hand, Pedro Seco, a master cutter, very popular among businessmen, politicians, judges and famous ham devotees, exhibits the secrets so that this Christmas you don’t get caught in a poke. buy an Iberico de bellota whose weight can never be less than seven kilos and whose lowest price ranges between 250 and 500 euros per kilo.

“I started out as a waiter cutting pieces in restaurants and one day I decided to make this art my profession,” confesses this man from Salamanca who shares his expertise with large Iberian ham producers such as Carrasco. To pair with a tasty dish of ham, Seco opts for a good champagne or cava. And, above all, he advises that the ham, both in pieces and vacuum packed, must be consumed within a maximum period of two months to prevent it from losing the excellence of its properties.

The quality standard for Iberian meat, ham, shoulder and loin shank obliges all Iberian hams to carry one of the 4 identifying seals: Black for 100% Iberian acorn-fed ham; Red for acorn-fed Iberian ham, from specimens of 75% or 50% Iberian breed; Green for the Iberian cebo de campo ham, from specimens of 100%, 75% or 50% Iberian breed, fed on natural pastures and feed in the field and White for the Iberian cebo ham, from 100% specimens, 75% or 50% Iberian breed, fed with feed, cereals and legumes on farms.

In this guide, Seco focuses his recommendations on acorn-fed Iberian ham, which comes from pigs that grow in leafy meadows full of holm oaks and cork oaks to feed on acorns, chestnuts, wild fruits, roots, mushrooms for their two years of life. , aromatic herbs, small insects and nuts. Every day during the montanera period they eat twelve kilos of acorns and walk 14 kilometers.

The leg of the Iberian acorn-fed ham, the one with the black and red label, has a black hoof, a fine shank and its external appearance must be shiny and oozing, with a kind of intense secretion throughout the piece. The exterior color tends to rust and looks aged.

The ham must be at a temperature of 22 degrees to favor the melting of its healthy fat. During their growth, pigs fix significant amounts of polyphenols, tocopherols and other natural antioxidants in their adipose tissue . “They are very muscular animals with thin but very resistant legs and black hooves”, Pedro Seco points out.

Once the piece is placed in the ham holder with the hoof facing down, the rind is removed. At home, the best option is to start the ham at the stifle, that is, the narrowest and most cured part that is usually at the right point to enjoy all its flavor and aroma. Seco recommends making thin slices, more or less the thickness of a sheet of paper, 5 centimeters and about 5 grams, so that the bite breaks in the mouth and thus be able to enjoy a ‘delicatessen’ that is difficult to beat.

It is advisable to clean the rind or fat from the ham until approximately a quarter of the piece is clear, following a straight line from the hoof to the tip and always leaving between one and two centimeters clean below the cut so that there are no remains of rind. or sliced ​​yellow bacon.

You have to clean four fingers on each side, removing the bark that will be used to cover the ham and keep the piece well. It is very important to cut the leg every other day until it is finished within a maximum period of two months. The bone is broken into pieces that can be frozen to flavor the stews that are prepared throughout the year.

Pedro Seco recommends accompanying the ham with picos better than with slices of bread. These exquisite Iberian loaches pair well with any drink: champagne, cava, red and white wine, sherry, sake and even gin and tonic if the piece is from Salamanca, where the flavor of the pigs is sweeter than that of Huelva, Extremadura or Cordoba.