Christmas is the quintessential time for ham. It is on these dates when we receive it as a gift or buy it for pure pleasure, but we do not always treat it well, and the poor end up as if it were a skatepark, full of curves. Many experts recommend that, if we do not know how to cut the ham, we take it to a deli to have it sliced and vacuum packed. Of course it is an option, but cutting a ham decently is not that difficult if we know how, and it gives us an experience that is impossible to emulate if we simply open a container. Zulima Esteban is the ham slicer of the Ramses Group, which dispatches Joselito's pieces that are served in the two restaurants that the group has in the Plaza de Independencia in Madrid: Ramses and Patio de Leones. Although it is clear that Esteban is going to cut the ham always better than us, she acknowledges that, with the right instruments and following very basic instructions, you can take advantage of the piece at home perfectly. So we have stuck to it while cutting its first ham of the day and has explained everything we should know. The instrumental: two knives and a ham holder If we want to cut a ham well it is essential to have three basic tools. The slicing knife should be long, narrow and flexible. It is used for lunch, and only for that. We are worth the typical ham knife, long and narrow, but also a good knife for salmon, which is what Esteban usually uses. "They have a round tip, they don't break my knife case and they are less dangerous," he explains. It is exactly this. In addition to this knife we need to force another, small, hard and pointed, which serves to clean and save the bones. It is not necessary to have more knives, but these have to be relatively good and must be very sharp. The last important element is the ham holder, “and the one that they give you with the ham will never be worth it,” Esteban says. Again, it is not necessary to spend a paste. The cutter works in Ramses with a ham holder that costs about 500 euros, well, he says, “a professional cutter needs a ham holder who works for him, because if we would not be moving all the time”. But for home, he says, it is not necessary to spend so much. For about 40 euros we have a good ham holder, whose main characteristic should be stability. Simply, the ham does not move from its place while you are cutting. "If a ham holder is not stable, it is better to catch him with a cat," jokes the slicer. Placement Once we have our two knives, the ham holder and, of course, the ham or shoulder, we have to proceed to its initial preparation. After unwrapping the ham we must remove all the accessory elements to it, which do nothing but bother: labels, seals, ropes ... In the restaurants some of these elements are left to guarantee the origin of the ham, but at home we already know where it has been come out, so we don't need them. Now we have to put the ham in the ham holder, where we will make our first important decision: the side where we begin to cut. Esteban always starts with the hoof up, which leaves the club, the widest and fat part of the ham face up. If we are not many at home, and we will take longer to eat the ham, it is usually recommended to start with the other side, which is narrower and cured, and dries before, but Esteban believes that, even at home, it is better Start with the club: “It is the juiciest and most colorful part. If they give us a ham from the copón or we spend a paste on a good one at Christmas, what I want is to enjoy the ham. Normally nobody finishes all the ham at Christmas. Well, let's eat the good and we can use the rest to cook later. ” We must take into account, in any case, that once the ham is opened it should be consumed in a month and a half, ideally in less than a month. Therefore, if we are few, it is better to opt for a shoulder than a ham, which is equally good (or better) and is smaller. It is a little harder to cut, because it has a higher proportion of bone, but the procedure is exactly the same. Final cleaning Once we have the ham and shoulder on the side chosen to start the job, we must proceed to the most delicate moment, which is to prepare the ham for cutting. This is the worst part we do at home and it is the one that configures the final result. The technique is simple, but it must be followed closely. If we start the ham by the mace we must locate a bump in the leg that is known as hock, easily identifiable. From there we count three fingers and, with the help of the small and hard knife, we make a deep cut until we touch bone (if we start with the babilla this process will be done after turning the ham). From this cut, we must clean the crust and yellow fat of the ham (which we must always discard, then bitter), leaving the piece ready for slicing. In restaurants where a lot of ham is consumed, a large part is cleaned, but at home it is better that we clean less, since the crust protects the meat while we do not consume it. "We clean two or three centimeters from the cutting line, we make a line on one side and another and remove all the bark and yellow fat," explains Esteban. Slicing Once the ham is clean we can proceed to its slicing, which we do with the long knife. If we are right-handed, we must cut with the right hand, towards us, but the most important thing is not what we do with this love, but what we do with the left, which is what we can cut ourselves, and it must always be different plane to the cut that we are going to do, so that if the knife escapes we do not cut ourselves. Slicing has no mystery. There are those who prefer more or less thin, short or long slices, but the important thing, Esteban points out, is that we can eat them without problems: “I am not a Taliban in terms of the size or thickness of the slice. The basic thing is that it does not have yellow fat or crust and that it is thin enough so that we can eat it sliced without slicing ”. As we cut we will have to save the bones, using another important technique, which is the one that prevents the dreaded curves in the ham. When we reach the bone we must cut a slice in the opposite direction, that is, it made the bone and, with the help of the short knife, make an incision in the meat, which will release the bone. If we start with the club "we are going to find different bones as we move forward: the hip bone, the tibia and the fibula, and below is the femur," explains Esteban. “We are going down, saving the bones, and when we reach the femur, we have to turn it over, putting the cut we have made in the mace parallel to the table. If the support does not allow us to swing, we put it as flat as possible ”. On the other hand, he explains, "we have no bones other than the hip and the label, but the process is the same, saving the bones and marking them." Esteban finally gives us an expert trick. In almost all hams we will find a kind of cluster between reddish and brown, which has a somewhat different color than the rest of the ham. It is a lymph node that, after the sacrifice of the pig, has become inflamed, and dilates more or less. "It is not harmful or taste bad, but the texture is different, it is as if it were a gizzard, and it is usually removed so as not to serve it because the palate is unpleasant," explains the cutter. There are usually three for ham, and just remove them with the small knife to continue slicing. Another defect that we can find in ham is what is known as tyrosine crystals. We usually see them in the best a priori hams, but it is no virtue of the piece; It is not bad either, nor should we do anything with them. "It comes out in hams of higher quality or prolonged healing, but it is not a symptom of quality," explains Esteban. “In the past this didn't work out. It has more to do with that now hams are made with less salt than anything else. But they are tyrosine crystals, it's not the acorn, nor the salt, nor anything like it. ” If there are too many, it may be an indication that the ham has been frozen or its healing has been artificially accelerated. Conservation The last important aspect to keep in mind to cut a ham well is its preservation once we have finished slicing. "The ham must be protected from its enemies, which are air and light," explains Esteban. The cutter advises to put a transparent film and squeeze it so that there is no air anywhere, and a cotton cloth on top. You can also add a little fat so that the ham does not dry out, but it must be white, never yellow, well. An expert trick is that, when cleaning the ham, we make a ball with the white fat we extract and store it in the fridge. This will prevent fat from getting fat, and we can use it to spread the ham before covering it with film. This, says Esteban, is better than giving oil, and if we give it whenever it is sunflower, it does not add other flavors to the piece. Once wrapped, the ham should always remain in a cool and dry place. If we have it in the kitchen, the ideal thing is that it is not near the refrigerator, which gives off a lot of heat, or near the fires or the oven. Following these rules there is no reason not to enjoy a good ham at home.