-Cycle 3, Item 55-
29 (Wed) February 2012
Baguette Sandwich: Dry-Cured Ham with Romaine
at JH & KH's home
With Cho JH, Kim KH, Lee HS, Kim IT, Choi SW, Yong I, Jeong D, and Dominic
Somewhat excited, somewhat disappointed, neighbor JH called me with news that she had scored a whole jamon. Alas, when she'd sampled some the evening before, not knowing how to cut it or prepare it, the resulting bits and pieces of greasy/gamy meat had fallen far from expectations. If I were to come over and take over, we could invite the rest of the gang and make a party of it. I packed my knives and headed over.
Here's what the ham looked like when I arrived, after they'd hacked away at it with a dull chef's knife.
In essence, dry-cured ham is a whole leg of raw pork that's been drained of blood, salted for a couple months, washed, dried, and left hanging for at least 9 months and up to 2 years until thoroughly done. Most famously, it's called "jamon" in Spain and "prosciutto" in Italy. The meat is tough and dense, thus requiring it to be shaved paper-thin, making it smooth and silky. While the taste of a given ham depends on various factors, including the curing agents used, the specific drying process, the time of aging, as well as the pigs themselves, the meat generally has an intense pork flavor, salty and sweet, lean yet rich--some might say "gamy" or even a bit "fishy." Very expensive, an authentic whole jamon from Spain, for example, weighing around 7 kg, yielding around 4 kg of meat, sells for $1000 to $1500 on the internet, about $25 per 100 gm (incidentally, almost exactly the price of that bullshit hanwoo (한우) from a few days back (see 3.051 Stone-Grilled Chadolbagi Sushi).
after carving out a chunk...
JH's thing was a locally-produced dry-cured ham. It was made by Andong Bonghwa Chuksan Nonghyeop (안동봉화축산농협), an agricultural collective in Gyeongsangbuk-Do that packages the ham under the brand name Coresciutto (꼬레슈토) (see Coresciutto's webpage for "Andong Prosciutto"). Their promotional materials claim that the ham is made in the tradition of jamon and/or prosciutto but doesn't provide any specifics. At just 200,000 won, it was worth a shot.
Never having worked with anything remotely similar to a whole leg of ham, I was at a loss about what to do when I first laid hands on it. For starters, it was huge, the biggest piece of animal that I've ever handled in my life, much too large for a single unexperienced person to tackle alone without a stand to stabilize the thing, so I needed someone to hold it steady while I went at it. Also, the skin was so thick and hard that I was unable to shear off pieces directly. So, I used a serrated bread knife to saw through the skin, then a filet knife to carve a sizable chunk from around the bone and sinew within, and finally a sashimi knife to remove the skin and slice the meat as thinly as I could. It was the most food-related fun that I had in years.
As for preparation, I took a simple approach and just made small sandwiches with the baguettes wedges that Jinhee had bought for the occasion, along with mayo, dijon mustard, cracked black pepper, fresh lemon juice, sliced onion, romaine. The pepper and lemon and onion helped to balance out the pork flavor and give the ham a lively pop. Though I have very limited experience with dry-cured hams, this one seemed pretty good to me, certainly good enough for sandwiches.