Iberico ham in a city apartment
July 7, 2017 10:27 AM   Subscribe

After reading this amazing iberico ham article in a Metafilter post I have decided I need a top end iberico bone-in ham in my life. I want to buy the knife holder, spend 700 dollars, the whole thing. I live in an apartment in a big city. Assuming I follow the care & feeding instructions properly: (1) Will the ham make my whole small place smell like ham? (2) how do you stop bugs from eating the ham / and it will attract rodents or roaches? We have the usual fruit flies and in the summer with the back door open we get bigger flies but nothing else (yet). (3) What, on average, will a cat do with the ham when I'm not looking?

I understand you're supposed to cover the exposed bits with plastic, but I'm wondering about the outer layer and how that interacts with all of the above -- or if the smell through the plastic will cause issues. I looked around for "ham shields", like a glass cake dome, but only found weighted "ham covers" that won't really protect it from much. And as far I understand you need to keep the ham out in open air to keep it curing?
posted by neustile to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not an expert but I tried this and feel that I failed. That said, I'm studying with the goal of succeeding next time. I wonder if city apartments are too warm and moist for an open-air ham? My ham went moldy far beyond what was expected, and I cut off the mold and used the remains as a base for a stock which was amazing, so no big loss.
posted by mumimor at 10:48 AM on July 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Well, my Spanish friend always used to say that you can tell the best hams from the "bichos" on them, so I think attracting insects is just part of the whole thing. Also remember that in a bar in Spain, they are going to go through a ham much more quickly than you are. Also Spain is very dry, not at all like say New York or SF or Chicago.
posted by yarly at 10:56 AM on July 7, 2017 [6 favorites]

I went through this a few years ago, and while $700 is much better than the $1200 just-for-the-ham I had come up with, I decided that getting the $25 bellota plate at a local Basque restaurant was more than adequate, at least until I come up with a way to have a bellota party big enough to go through most of a whole ham fairly quickly.
posted by rhizome at 11:38 AM on July 7, 2017 [5 favorites]

To answer #(3): Devour it. With haste. Probably not even behind your back but right to your astonished face.
posted by cooker girl at 12:05 PM on July 7, 2017 [21 favorites]

Keep in mind what the Mediterranean climate is like. Then consider what the climate is like inside your apartment.

Roaches and rats are attracted to pretty much any food, period. They are also continually nearby in any big city. Fruit flies are not attracted to meat. Houseflies and other flies are attracted to meat.
This is a traditional method of relatively short-term ham serving and storage developed for public houses or very large households. And a certain amount of traditional pests are traditionally accepted and tolerated (if not outright celebrated).

I do not predict this going well for you, sorry.

If it's any consolation, I do not think it would make your house smell like ham to most humans, and I can think of a lot of cats I know that wouldn't touch it.
posted by SaltySalticid at 12:32 PM on July 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Not all of Spain is dry - I live in Barcelona and it's very humid here. Plenty of ham around too. I've never kept one in my house, but I have friends who do, with no apparent special care.
One ham probably won't impart a noticeable smell. However, there is a wonderful, almost overpowering smell when you walk into an old shop that's had a series of hams hanging for a couple of hundred years.
posted by conifer at 1:04 PM on July 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

I also do not predict this going well.

Try buying smallish sliced packs of many types of Serrano and Iberico hams and organise tasting parties. We bought ours at a deli counter the morning before flying back to the UK. The differences can be quite stark and we found that our preferences were almost inversely correlated with cost. You might buy Iberico and discover you hate it whereas you might really like the somewhat cheaper Serrano.
posted by epo at 1:26 PM on July 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

It needs air to circulate around it. At present we've had a one of these Serrano hams from Lidle on the go for about 2 weeks so far in a hot summer. I bought some bridal netting and rigged up a cover around it. Flies weren't that interested in it - too salty - but I know where flies have been and just can't be casual about that stuff. We tuck the net around the bottom of the board it's on and make sure fabric isn't touching the sides of the meat. If eggs/maggots etc were to be discovered on the meat...the person who bought it would be rather cross with me for throwing the whole thing out.

The instructions say if it gets a bit of mould on it just cut the green bits off.

It smells strong, so everyone in your home will have to get used to the smell of ham in the kitchen. It doesn't smell bad
posted by glasseyes at 1:36 PM on July 7, 2017

For price comparison, those Lidl Serrano hams were as cheap as £27 ($35) last November.
posted by epo at 1:45 PM on July 7, 2017

Yes that's about the price. Dirty great leg of an animal with sharp little hoof still attached, taking up half the kitchen table on a stand.

Yeah, ours is still ok, no mould so far and flies taken care of. My son first of all tried covering the newly cut bits with plastic wrap, I grew up in the tropics and that didn't look like a good idea to me so I mucked up the food net. It hangs from the cupboards so air circulates freely right round the ham. I can't imagine a more expensive ham would be more difficult to keep edible, rather the reverse because of going through a more elaborate salting/aging process.
posted by glasseyes at 1:59 PM on July 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Fwiw, my father always had a couple of Hebrew National salamis in varying stages if dryness hanging from a kitchen cabinet doorknob and we never had bugs because of it (in Brookkyn and LA.) I've been wanting to try this myself and am skeptical about not attracting bugs, but I received confirmed with my mom that it was never a problem.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:30 PM on July 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ok, what you want to do first of all is wait until autumn/winter to do this, and keep the ham in the coolest, driest place in your house.

You don't have to keep it screwed into the holder, you can hang it by a rope tied around the trotter in your pantry, if that's the coolest, driest place in your house. You can even slice it while it's hanging up; the holder makes it easier, but it's not imperative.

Don't cover the exposed bits with plastic. When you open the ham-that is, cut off the first layer of fat- save the fat and either lay it on top of the cut part or attach it with toothpicks (if it's hanging up). This keeps the exposed bit fresh and more-or-less mold free. Cover the whole thing with a clean dishtowel. Eventually the piece of fat will get rancid- just throw it away and slice off another piece of fat.

I don't think you'll have a problem with your cat. A ham doesn't smell like delicious fresh meat. My cat has never touched my my hams, and I don't know anyone else who has had a problem with that.

Even more important than the stand is the jamón knife. You must buy one, they are very long and thin and they are essential for getting those paper-thin cuts and working around curves (and it's a leg, it has a lot of curves). You should also watch a bunch of youtube videos to see how to cut it. It's not nearly as good if you're just hacking chunks out of it. There's a whole method.

And last but not least, you must finish eating the whole thing within a month, maybe two at the outside, or it will start to go rancid. Throwing parties is very good for this (there's a reason why everyone buys jamones in Spain at Christmas). If you can't finish it, or you get tired of it (possible), or you are sick to death of cutting it off the leg (highly probable, it's very labor-intensive), you may be able to find a really good butcher who will do it for you. My butcher slices my ham (by machine), portions it into 100g vacuume-sealed packages, and gives me a bag of the sliced-up bones for 40€. I have no idea how much this would cost you where you live, but if you're dropping $700+ on this, might as well go whole hog.

Source: I get a ham for Christmas every year, feel free to memail if you need more information.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 3:30 PM on July 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

This is great. I am slightly adapting my plan based on everything I read. I'll wait until thanksgiving / christmas season, we have a few parties at the apartment around then, and hang it in our closet that also is our "wine cellar" otherwise, and hope it's gone within that month :) Thank you all for the personal advice and experiences!
posted by neustile at 9:51 AM on July 9, 2017

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