How to Slice and Store Jamón
Jamón is the culinary treasure of Spain. Spaniards enjoy more ham per person than anyone in the world. A whole jamón can be stored in your kitchen and used daily as tapas or in recipes. It is also a great conversation piece for parties and holiday gatherings.
Slicing Spanish Ham
To enjoy the flavor and authentic texture of a fine jamón, slice the ham with a long sharp knife in the following order: first the rump half (1), then the rump end (2), and lastly the shank (3).
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. Slice downwards with your free hand behind the knife.
Here is a video showing the proper method of carving a jamón provided to us by Fermín, one of our favorite suppliers of serrano and Ibérico hams: Slicing Video
Store bone-in jamón in a cool ventilated place, either in a holder or hung by the rope provided. Always cover the sliced area with plastic wrap to preserve freshness and moisture. The first slice should be discarded if the meat has been exposed for some time.
Store your boneless jamón in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic. Boneless hams can be divided into pieces, or can be sliced on an electrical slicer. Serve the jamón at room temperature.
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 or with a cloth and olive oil.
Small white spots: These are small "chalky" granules that form between the muscle fibers during the curing process. They vary in shape, size and location. They are amino acids found in aged meat and cheese products and are perfectly safe to eat.
Iridescent coloring: This coloring can be seen on the cut surface of the ham and in certain parts of the meat. It is insignificant as far as the quality of the ham is concerned.
Salt: Sometimes salt can crystalize 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. Simply slice off the section with the film and discard the discolored slice.
Fat: Whole hams tend to be rather fatty, which protects the meat and helps it keep longer.
"why does the boneless ham require refrigeration while the bone-in can be stored in a cool place? can the boneless ham be stored on a holder in the refrigerator and covered with a dish cloth? "
jim baxter, San Antonio, TX, USA
"While the bone remains in the jamon, it will continue to cure and should be stored in a cool dry place, loosely covered (for breathing). Once the bone is removed, the curing process stops and the meat must be refrigerated. We recommend storing the boneless ham in an airtight container in the refrigerator, to prevent drying out.
" - Don Harris
"If I buy a bone-in Jamon Serrano, how long can it keep uncut. Meaning, if i buy a Jamon now, But do not want to begin slicing it in its holder until XMAS time, will that be ok just resting hung up for a few weeks?"
Fisher Fredericks, Alexandria, VA
"Thanks for your post, Fisher. Since the bone-in jamón is dry-cured, your ham will continue to cure, even after your recieve it. Just be sure to unwrap it upon receipt so that it can continue to "breathe." It does not require refrigeration. " - Don Harris
"We are expecting delivery soon of a boneless iberico ham, can't wait! I am looking for the best option for some longer term storage, meaning a few months. How long will vacuum sealed pieces last in the refrigerator? Is freezing sealed pieces bad? Also, what would be the best approach to breaking it down for some storage and a lot of fresh eating? Lots of questions, just don't want to waste a bit! Thanks for your time."
Chris Hinckley, Arcata, CA USA
Congratulations on your purchase, it is truly an amazing ham! A boneless ham can be stored for a few months if it remains wrapped in its original plastic. Freezing it should not cause any harm. Once it is removed from its packaging it will last a much shorter time, unless you have a countertop vacuum seal machine. In that case you can cut it into pieces and store them individually until you are ready to slice away. If you are going to use a meat slicer, I would recommend slicing it well chilled for thin slices. But remember, always bring the ham slices to room temperature before serving!" - Don Harris
"hi! i just rcvd my bone in Jamon Serrano- i'l be serving it on sep. so that's like 3 months for now- is it still gonna be as fresh? can i put it in the ref with the original vacuum wrap as it was delivered to me or should i take out the vacuum wrap and just leave it on the stand in my dining area- im such a rookie -lil confused what do i do? thanks! can't wait to throw a big spanish dinner :) "
FATIMA ACUNA, GLENDALE CA
"Hola Fatima, I am sure you will enjoy your jamón serrano. Since you have a whole bone-in one, in contrast to a boneless one, by all means I would remove the plastic vacuum pack and allow it to breathe again.
As you suggest, I would put it on a stand on your counter, it is dry cured, so it won't go bad if left out in the air -- it will be improved. The only thing to watch for is whether it is getting dried out on the surface -- especially in the area where you slice it. If so, get a cloth with olive oil and place it over the area. Have a great time with your friends and family. Don" - Don Harris
"As an endocrinologist I can't help but point out an important mistake in the text above. The text states: "Small white spots (thyroxine): These are small "chalky" granules that form between the muscle fibers during the curing process. They vary in shape, size and location. They are amino acids found in aged meat and cheese products and are perfectly safe to eat." Thyroxine is not an amino acid. It is thyroid hormone. If the ham did actually contain thyroxine, it could be quite dangerous. There was a famous epidemic some years back that occurred when a slaughter house in the midwest included pieces of the thyroid gland in beef when they harvested the neck strap muscles. The thyroxine in the beef caused an epidemic of thyroid hormone intoxication, which if the levels are too high it can actually be fatal. I wonder if you mean the amino acid threonine? "
Michael Collins, Bethesda, MD
"Dear Dr. Colllins,
Thank you very much for your authoritative clarification concerning jamones. We quickly updated the descriptor, and we appreciate your taking the time to educate us all! We are grateful to have members of the Tienda Community lending us support." - Don Harris
"I would like to know how I can keep the freshness of the jamon Serrano (bone in) when the temperature in Panama is 33C all year around and the humidity is high, or would I need to keep it in the fridge?"
José Urriola, Panamá, Rep. de Panamá
"You do have a problem, José, although I think that people in Buffalo and Minnesota would not mind dealing with less of their snowy climate.
If you are carving your jamón daily, then cover the open sliced area with a cheesecloth and some oilive oil or a slice of fat from the jamón. If it is not going to be used for several days then refrigeration is the way to go. Just bring it out long enough to reach room temperature before you start slicing again." - Don Harris
"Hi Don, I was wondering how many plates (regular dinner plate) or grams of Jamon would I get from a leg which is about 4 kgs? I originally thought it would be a lot - plates and plates full (maybe 15?) but videos online make it look like a lot less after you have trimmed fat and discarded bone? Maybe 3-4 plates. Having a few dinner parties and wondering how many legs to buy. Many thanks. "
Nikhil Shah, London
This is Don's son.
A jamon (back leg) of ham is about 8 kilos for serrano and 6 kilos for Iberico. I would estimate you will lose 30 to 40% for each ham in fat and bones.
So the yield on a Serrano will be about 5 kilos and an Iberico will be about 4 kilos.
If you buy a "paleta", or front leg, expect to lose 50% to 60%.
Enjoy your parties!
Jonathan Harris" - Don Harris