“The single most crucial thing if you have got the whole ham on the bone is to keep it dry,” says James Robinson, who trains for Brindisa. “It’s likely it will have had three to four years’ drying and to allow it to get damp again, you’re undoing the work of years.”
Store it in a dark, dry place, but avoid leaving it in the cellar if it’s at all damp. Invest in an Iberico ham stand to help cut safely and get the most meat off the bone, preferably with a rotating collar where the hoof sits to allow you to carve more meat at different angles.
When you’re ready to serve, use a large, sharp knife to carefully trim off the yellow fat and mould off that has developed as a layer to protect the meat. Leave any white fat, which in a jamon de bellota is rich in acorn oil and the source of its distinctive sweet, nutty flavour.
Slice from the hoof up first if you’re serving the ham at a party, as this part is the most easily carved. For the carving, you’ll need a thin, sharp, flexible blade, similar to a salmon carving knife. The aim is to slice meat 1-2mm thick in 1-2 inch bite-sized strips, so you should see your knife through the meat as you carve.
Set aside any white fat parts initially carved from the outside and when you’re finished eating, rub these pieces on the cut surface and leave them to cover the cut surface to stop it drying out.
One side will always be more heavily cured than the other, where the muscle is smaller.
“If you’re intending to eat again reasonably soon, cover it with a tea towel,” says Robinson. “If you’re going to wait longer, wrap the ham in cling film, binding the fat to the cut surface.”
The ham will keep in this way for a week, after which mould will start to grow on the surface. “This is normal,” says Robinson. “Just trim it down and rub the cut surface with olive oil. The quicker you consume it the better, but it will easily keep for 6-8 weeks in a dry place.”
Brindisa’s Ibérico de bellota is cured in the most northerly of the Ibérico ham producing regions and is dark red with fat rich in acorn oil and well interlaced with muscle. The acorn-fed pigs are reared in approximately three hectares of land each, after which this ham is cured for a minimum of three years. Its flavour is sweet and nutty with a lingering salty, savoury flavour. It’s best paired with a mature red wine such as a Rioja Gran Reserva or a dry fino sherry. A whole Brindisa Ibérico de bellota ham on the bone is £370, or £16.75 for 100g sliced.