Discover the character of all the parts of a FISAN Acorn-Fed Ibérico Ham and the different uses made of them.
Acorn-fed Ibérico ham is the cured product obtained from the pig’s hind leg. As such it has an important number of different muscles that acquire their own personal character due to their nature, the different type of exercise that the pig carries out when free-ranging during the montanera period and due to its anatomical situation, which also influences in its drying and curing.
As can be seen in the image the main parts of the ham are: the maza (thicker, rump half of the ham), the contra (the opposite part to the maza), the babilla (the rump end of the ham), the punta (the hip, or opposite part of the hoof), the jarrete (the mellow part of the ham, between the tibia and fibula) and the caña (similar to the jarrete, between the shinbone and fibula and used to make small cubes). So, when we “confront” an Acorn-Fed Ibérico Ham the first thing we have to know is if we are going to eat it up quickly (one or two days) or gradually over quite a few more days.
If we are going to finish it off quickly, then we open it up along the maza (with the hoof looking upwards) and we remove the rind and golden coloured fat that covers it until the white fat appears. However, if we are going to slowly and gradually enjoy the ham, then ideally you should start carving it along the babilla (with the hoof looking downwards) and again remove the rind and fat in the measure that you will be carving, hence ensuring that it does not dry out too much.
If we start with the hoof looking upwards, the first part we encounter is the maza. The maza is the part of the Acorn-Fed Ibérico Ham with the most amount of meat, which is also particularly tender and juicy and with abundant marbling of fat; thus it is popularly considered as the very best part of the ham.
At the opposite side of the hip bone we encounter the contra or contra maza (this without turning the ham over as yet, still with the hoof looking upwards). This part is narrower and proportionally has less fat than the maza, which results in meat that is more highly cured. Visually it also has a different aspect, with less fat marbling, reason why it is preferred by those who do not enjoy the fat of the ham quite as much. Who hasn’t had to, painfully, remove the fat from a slice of ham because that is the way your kid wants to eat it? Well there you have it…the contra maza is ideal for those who love ham with a bit less fat.
When the hoof of the ham is looking downwards is when we are directly confronted with the babilla. This muscular area is fitted right between the femur and the largest part of the coxal bone (or hip bone) and, therefore, it has less meat than the maza and contra maza. This is also the reason why before we mentioned that it is much better to start the ham along the babilla if it is to be consumed slowly and leisurely. The advantage is that a smaller part is exposed to the air and this hinders it from drying out too quickly; while in turn the parts with more meat continue to be protected for a longer period of time.
The babilla is a very tasty part, although it is less juicy than the maza because it is surrounded with a lower quantity of external fat, resulting in meat that is more highly cured and with less fat marbling (here we could apply what we just mentioned about the contra maza for those who prefer less fat).
The punta is the exact opposite point of the hoof. It is very tasty and highly marbled with fat. Also, since the ham is hanging with the punta downwards during its curing process, all the fat that drips from the Acorn-Fed Ibérico Ham passes through this part, which allows it to concentrate all the aromas found in the ham in the meat in this area. This is why many experts consider that this part of the ham is richest in the wonderful hues and aromas of a fine Acorn-Fed Ibérico Ham.
The jarrete and the caña shroud a more fibrous meat in comparison with the other parts that we have mentioned and both have a lower proportion of fat. However, on the other hand this is quite probably the part of the ham with the most intense flavour. When finely sliced it is an absolutely exquisite morsel, although this part of the ham is normally diced into small cubes because the leanness of the meat lends itself to the making of uniform cubes that are in turn very delectable.
Finally, there is a part of the ham that treasures a small portion of exquisite flavour and texture. It is hidden away between the tibia and the fibula (in the case of the shoulder ham it is found between the radius and the ulna). There are quite a few of us who anxiously await the moment when this little treasure is revealed…all we need is patience.
So, as you can see one single FISAN Acorn-Fed Ibérico Ham offers a wide range of flavours, aromas and textures. All of them absolutely extraordinary. However, this is not where the enjoyment ends. The rind, the superficial fat and the bone itself also have a multitude of culinary uses. But, indeed, that is an entirely different chapter…