Iberian Ham Tasting
20/12/2016 — Published by Bego
Like wine tasting, Iberian ham tasting collects a great number of experts that meet in contests several times to the year, defining the textures and qualities of the Iberian ham.
The tasting of the Iberian ham is part of the process of ham production, it is the final part, which follows the breeding of the pig. This final part evaluates the quality of the product, establishing its gastronomic value.
An experience for all 5 senses
The tasting of the Iberian ham does not only involve the taste. The view has an important role, since the shape of the ham is one of the indications of the quality of the ham. For example, elongated ham with dark hooves and fine bones and molds on the surface has good grounds for being a good ham.
When opening the ham you should expect a layer of grease of a yellowish color, which gives way to a whiter fat stuck to the part of the muscle and that reflects the stage of the montanera. A fat pink instead of whitish is indicative of a ham of the highest quality.
Lean meat usually contains small crystallized amino acids, which experts blame for offering tannins, the so-known umami.
Smell is another of the senses involved in the face of the ham. The aroma allows to perceive the intensity and permanence as well as its nuances. Feeding the pigs as well as the time and environmental conditions in the cure determine their aroma. Along with this, the point of salt will influence how easy the perception of the nuances is, since the excess of it causes a salivation that would tarnish the perception of the same.
The last of the tasting experiences is the taste. On the one hand the texture of the slices and the slices of the ham are evaluated. In this part, three aspects are evaluated:
- Juiciness: is determined by the combination of fat and salt balance.
- Dryness: It is increased if the ham has been exposed in the superficial part.
- Fiber: a ham of high quality will be less fibrous and will have more fluid fat, which can be perceived when chewing.
- Flavour: in addition to that salty touch, the ham should offer other nuances, such as a sweet touch and the familiar umami described above.
After evaluating each of the previous parts, the ham gets a note, not numeric but qualifying.
The options are as follows:
- Acorn: allows to perceive the taste of the acorn in its slices at room temperature.
- Salty: positive in equilibrium and negative when salt is missing or leftover.
- Sweet: more common in hams that have gone through long periods of healing in the cellar following the traditional method. It's not common.
- Spicy: it is accepted in moderation, since it covers the nuances of the ham. It occurs when you try to accelerate the healing process.
- Rancid: at a low level can be positive and provide interesting nuances, but in excess is the worst rating in the tasting.
Thus, by way of summary, the most positive aspects of the tasting are: cellar flavor, burnt sugar or nuts (acorns or walnuts and hazelnuts). On the opposite side we have the taste of mold, moisture or fish.