Thus the pig becomes the famous serrano ham
Serrano ham and Iberian ham come from parallel worlds. It is the first important difference in ham culture in Spain. There will never be a “serrano de pata negra”, because the pig from which it comes is white (rather pink), a crossroads of Central European breeds.
In contrast, the Iberian black-skinned pig gives the luxurious ham of the same name, whose value triples the price of the serrano.
Entering the world of the serrano and products derived from the white pig means to take a look at how the fourth largest industry in Spain (that of the pig) perfected its processes to modernize a tradition dating from the second century BC, when the Romans Discovered the delights of curing the pig to the rhythm of the seasons.
“The ham system is the most natural: pork, salt and mountain air”, Explains José Ramón Godoy, until recently in charge of the internationalization of Interporc (Interprofessional del Porcino de Capa Blanca). A serrano ham takes about 12 to 15 months to get ready and needs the temperature of the seasons, starting with the winter cold.
That’s why the traditional pig slaughtering takes place in December. But the industry can not afford to wait the seasons. Sacrifice farm pigs daily, therefore, the production of hams and sausages does not stop at the calendar.
The ideal point of the ham is at room temperature, so that its aromas can volatilize and its balance of flavors is at the right point.
In Olot Meats, in Girona (Catalonia), they sacrifice about 10,000 white pigs a day. It is one of the largest slaughterhouses in the country (among the 250 that Interporc registers). The pigs that arrive are six months old or they weigh between 100 and 110 kg, with cereal diet. Their treatment follows the animal protection policies.Granjas, slaughterhouses, cutting plants and factories of ham or quality sausages are prided to meet the highest standards. The Spanish pig seeks markets and needs quality and good visas in almost any country.
The slaughterhouse classifies, by means of a scanner, the fat level of the animal. Deliver the canines (the pork open in two halves), clean and hairless, to the cutting rooms, where they are turned into loins, shanks and other cuts, including the meat to be minced that will become sausage.
Carniques Celrá, Girona cutting plant, works with lean or low fat pigs and long canals that give good loins, ideal for sweet or cooked ham. This cooked ham is the most commercialized in Colombia, which we see chopped in stores. In contrast, cured ham, like the serrano, comes from a fatty pork.
Carniques Celrá works with farms in Catalonia and Aragon. “100 percent of the pig is raised in Spain, which is already the main pork producer ahead of Germany,” says Jordi Llinás, his spokesman.
The whole 80 kilos of the carcass are taken from the pig. “Japan takes the bone, tongue, tail, ribs. The crusts like in the Philippines “, adds Llinás.
The fat legs go to places such as Hamón Alto Aragón or Pirenaica del Jamón, both in Barbastro, Huesca, in the north of Spain. The future hams are weighed, their fat level is evaluated and they are salted in conditions of cold and of humidity.
After a week, the salt has entered the meat. Then, the legs pass to the chambers or warehouses where the industry reproduces the temperature of each season. Each door of the corridors of the healing area in Jamones Alto Aragón leads to a different climate, as if one door led to winter, another to spring and another to summer.
“Winter is the first,” they say. The salt has to penetrate to the heart of the shank. When the pig was killed in December, the ham was hung on the rafters of the house and the stations did the rest. If we put heat on him first, we would damage the meat. Drying is done slowly, raising the temperature. ”
After passing through the “spring”, the pork leg is soaked. There is a layer of oil on top, so that the ham that spends another time in the cellar – that of summer and the drying of autumn – has a better bouquet.
In the summer, the legs “sweat” and the loss occurs (loss of water). The foot must weigh 33 percent less than when arriving. Only then can it be called serrano ham. “One leg arrives weighing 11 or 12 kilos, and healed already weighs 7 or 8,” explains Florencio Largo, manager of Pirenaica del Jamón, whose hams mark Mayoral spend from 11 to 18 months in healing process.
“We divide the mountains into different types,” adds Largo, “winery (more than nine months of healing), reserve (more than 12 months) and great reserve (14 months and up).”
The industry maintains the figure of the master ham. In Pirenaica it is Francisco Priego, whose experience of 32 years allows him to know if a ham is ready with just looking at it, but also uses the touch: “You touch it by the fat part. If the finger does not sink, it is cured. If it sinks, it should not be consumed yet, “he says.
“Only when you open it you know if the ham is good – explains the expert José Ramón Godoy – but there are indicators, the main one is fat: the more you have, the better quality. Same, with healing time. ”
The ham should be juicy, not hard. The best way to enjoy it is in thin sheets. “The fine cut allows the infiltrated fat to undo as soon as it comes into contact with the tongue, the heat causes it to melt and leave the aromas.”
The path of the sausage
For three generations, Sausages Goikoa, in Navarra, has made sausages, sausages, fuets (sausages that carry on their surface a layer of mold) and ham. “The chorizo is our forte,” says Ana Solá, of Goikoa Sausages. It is divided into horseshoe sausage, chorizo snack, sliced, barbecue, chistorra and chorizo from Pamplona.
The company, interested in making its way in Colombia, exports its products to many countries in Europe and Canada. They dream that Colombian diners become familiar with products such as the Txistorra or chistorra, the “sausage of a thousand names”, because in the same area of Navarra, they call it even longaniza. In Colombia it would be like a little chorizo.
“The chorizo was born when the Spaniards arrived in America,” says Solá. They brought the paprika. In Extremadura they let their seeds dry and someone thought to add them pulverized to a sausage that was white. So the red chorizo, as we know it, was born in Extremadura, in the seventeenth century. ” From then on, a Spanish chorizo could have one or more spices, but the definition of chorizo is part of the union between minced meat and paprika.
LILIANA MARTÍNEZ POLO
Cultura y Entretenimiento
* By invitation of Interporc