"Like a great wine, the Pata Negra likes to play with all your senses and please you with its delicate and complex bouquet". Florence Châtelet Sanchez, Founder of Maison DEHESA.
Know how to appreciate ham by sight and smell first
The flesh must be dark red in color and show many infiltrations of fat.
The flesh should ooze, proof that it is at the right temperature to let the very singular scent of bellota bloom.
The touch and the taste then...
To the touch, the slice should be as fine as lace.
The first thing to do is to taste the fat of the ham to absorb all the aromas and complexity of the vintage. Keep the fat in the mouth, so that the air comes down through the nose: in contact with the oxygen, the flavors are revealed. Appreciating the ham starting with a small slice of fat means feeling all the expression of the terroir where the pig was raised; in addition to the acorns of oak, it is all the Mediterranean herbs and fruits that it was nourished with and that bring the minerality and the richness of the aromas.
Then comes the tasting of the Patanegra's flesh, which must have an elegant entrance in the mouth. It is melting and its bellota flavors gradually emerge in the middle and end of the mouth, without leaving an aftertaste of fat or salt. In hams that have been cured for more than 42 months, floral, dried fruit and candied fruit notes develop harmoniously in the middle and end of the mouth. The length in the mouth of the aromas, called caudalie, is a witness of an exceptional quality.
Tasting at the right temperature
Too often, ham is eaten with greed and haste: as soon as it enters the mouth, it is already going down our greedy throats. And very often, the slices are still far from the ideal temperature for tasting...
It is therefore impossible to appreciate the full range of aromas of the ham, especially for hams that have been aged for more than 50 months and whose aromas are expressed very gradually as they are stretched out.
For consumers of pre-sliced hams, this means opening the bag in advance so that the slices can be aired and release their aromas. The ideal is to open the bag half an hour before eating, at room temperature. The use of a hot or warm plate for hams that have been matured for more than 52 months can cause a thermal shock to these delicate aromas.
All in all, a ham that has been aged for two years and matured for a minimum of three to four years is a delicate and fragile work. Its beautiful aromatic palette must not be affected by strong variations in temperature or humidity. It is therefore necessary to give it time and wait patiently for the sweet ham to express its subtle charms and its full personality.
Some more tips for aficionados
Each ham is different. There are vintages that should be aged for more than 70 months and others that should not. Only the last year of the acorn harvest that the pig has enjoyed can determine whether the ham will be included in a reserva faste or not. On the other hand, there are hams that require more time to mature than others in the same reserva. It also depends on the weight. And on the climate, on the years of maturation. If some winters are too wet, the hams will have to extend their curing time by 3 to 6 months. It is therefore necessary to know your hams, their history, the time they have spent, and ideally to check their evolution, by nose, week after week in a dedicated cellar.
THE PATANEGRA IN ITS PURE AROMATIC EXPRESSION Pairings
Accompany your Patanegra de bellota with white, airy bread. The bread can be toasted and slightly sweetened (lightly brioche or corn bread) but avoid any dark or cereal bread, which has too much acidity. The ideal accompaniments for Patanegra are mashed potatoes and a fried toast of fresh tomatoes rubbed with garlic and sprinkled with extra virgin olive oil. Patanegra also goes well with foie gras, tortilla or poached eggs, figs, quince jelly, asparagus, turbot and scallops. If By DEHESA ham allows for multiple pairings, it is recommended to use them sparingly, on old vintages (maturing more than 52 months) so as not to overwhelm the rich and delicate aromatic palette, which is only discovered little by little, as if to better provoke impatient gourmets! Prefer a mineral or slightly oxidized wine, or a winey champagne, such as a white brut from Krug, a white from Ruinart, or a rosé from Billecart-Salmon. The mineral filter that has made the reputation of By DEHESA ham so strong will be enhanced by the chardonnay and pinot grapes of the great champagnes and white wines of Burgundy. Defects As with wine, ham can have defects due to errors in the maturing process. One can find notes of salt, when the maturation was not brought to its point of optimality; notes of mold when the humidity was too high during its maturation or its conservation. We also speak of "pommadé" ham when it has too much sweetness due to the fattening of the pig with flour or the addition of sugars to the ham (industrial process).