The holidays are prime time for setting out the best of Ibérico pork. Cured Spanish meats like chorizo or jamón make those Christmas meals all the more special and delicious. Of course, there’s no denying that these festive dinners can sometimes also come with a bit of stress. There’s rarely margin to make mistakes in the kitchen during the holidays—you’ve got to be prepared!
So we’re offering up our list of “don’ts” when it comes to serving your favorite assortment of cured Ibérico pork with your friends and family. Follow these tips and you’ll be sure they get the right treatment this holiday season, and every special gathering to follow.
Don’t Forget to Sharpen Your Knives
Whether you’re carving a whole ham or slicing up chorizo, it’s important to have the right knives and to keep them sharp. A sharp knife helps you cut paper thin slices, the ideal width for savoring the nuances of fat and that melt-in-your-mouth texture. A dull knife is likely to cut thick slices or even shred the meat, which can be unpleasant to chew and will lose some of that delicious flavor.
Don’t Carve Jamón Too Early
Getting prepared for the big holiday meal is always a good idea. But if you carve a big plate of jamón or paleta too early, it can dry out and become chewy and tough. Instead, slice those paper thin slices just moments before your guests arrive.
Don’t Make Cured Ibéricos the Main Course
Though draping salchichón over every side dish or serving a heaping plate of jamón as the main course wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, Ibérico meats are meant to be savored, appreciated, and are often best consumed, all on their own. They’re true delicacies, making them perfect for luxurious appetizers that open up the palate before a big meal. In other words, no need to go through all the trouble of making those pre-holiday dinner snacks. A plate of Ibéricos is all you need to keep your guests happy.
Don’t Eat Cured Ibéricos Cold
Temperature has a heavy influence on the flavors and textures of all high-quality charcuterie. So it’s crucial to serve all Ibérico meats around 75ºF. The right temperature helps those fats and meats mingle and melt on your tongue and brings out all sorts of nuances. For whole cured meats, keep them at the appropriate temperature for slicing and serving. And if you’re storing packs of sliced Ibéricos in the refrigerator, take them out at least one hour before you’re ready to serve. Short on time? Run the pack under hot water for 20 seconds until it comes to room temperature. Just make sure to never microwave cured meats!
Don’t Keep Jamón Near Heat
In the same vein, it’s important to store a whole ham or paleta properly. This keeps it fresh and ready to slice up for your holiday events or for simple snacking at home. Though you may be inclined to keep these pieces on whatever kitchen counter spot is the most convenient, be careful! Areas near the oven or stove tend to heat up and quickly become some of the warmest places in the house during the holidays (especially if you’re an avid cook). Jamón and paleta legs should be kept in a cool and dry area of the house, and away from heater vents as well. If you keep your jamón in the kitchen, keep it as far away from those points of heat as possible. Or keep it in the living room and bring it into the kitchen when it’s time to carve. Too much heat can ruin the piece.
Don’t Serve Cured Ibéricos on Colorful Plates
Presentation is key for serving these Spanish delicacies, and the right dishware is even more important during the holidays. You may be inclined to pull out that bright red Christmas tray to showcase your freshly carved jamón slices. But you want to let the meat be the star! Show off the natural bright red colors of Ibérico—its gorgeous lines and pockets of healthy fat—and use simple white serving ware or even a wooden charcuterie board.
Don’t Forget About Pairings
Don’t get caught serving Ibéricos with average beers or a sugary Christmas punch. These artisan cured meats deserve all your respect, and that means a thoughtful wine pairing. Our personal favorite is a glass of bubbly cava or champagne to kick off the festivities. It’s the ideal holiday appetizer.
Don’t Throw Out the Bone
Once you’ve sliced away every last morsel of your jamón or paleta, you’ll be left with a large meaty bone. Instead of tossing it, take it down to the local butcher or meat counter and ask them to cut up the bone into smaller, more manageable pieces. Then use those bones to make soups or rich, porky stocks and broths throughout the year or even for a special holiday meal.