I’m always searching for truly unique food and wine experiences. I’m no Andrew Zimmern or Anthony Bourdain, but I do seek to step out of the norm from time to time. A recent trip to London allowed me just the unique opportunity for which I have been searching. Happening upon the site for a London Spanish-food staple, Brindisa, yielded a one of a kind opportunity – a class geared towards learning how to carve a (Spanish) jamón. The class would far surpass my expectations.
Located at their store in the Borough Market, the Brindisa Ham School is normally held once a month (during the summer they are holding two per month) and normally lasts a couple of hours (although mine went about three). Or class was taught by Master Carver Mario Hiraldo Regalado, and began with roughly an hour introduction to Spanish jamón. During this time we discovered the different types of jamón (Serrano and Ibérico) as well as their regions of origin, terroir, and production and curing methods. We tasted four jamóns: 1) Jamón de Monroyo Reserva (Teruel, Aragón); 2) Eiriz Cebo (Jabugo, Huelva); 3) Jamón de la Dehesa de Extremadura Bellota DOP (Badajoz, Extremadura), and 4) Iberico Brindisa Bellota (Guijuelo, Salamanca). It is truly amazing how different these artisan-cured products can be from each other.
After the tasting we split into two groups – one to learn (I dare say “master”) how to carve and the second to taste four wines brought to pair with the jamón. I quickly jumped to the counter where a number of unsuspecting legs were perched perfectly on their respective jamonera. Approximately 15 minutes of master instruction by Mario taught us how to “open” a new leg as well as how to attain a good slice where we don’t “butcher” the meat. It was then time for us to to don protective gloves and be placed strategically in front of our own jamón. At first it appears a bit intimidating (because Mario makes it look so easy), but once you get elbow-deep in your own jamón you will forget it is your first time.
Following our slicing lessons we switched places and the second group took their turn at carving while we enjoyed two white and two red wines from DOCa Rioja, VdlT Extremadura, and VdlT Castilla. It was fascinating to taste white wines with the jamón instead of just the oft-expected red wine. In the end, we each took away the slices that we carved while at the helm as well as a couple of other goodies.
Are you looking for a unique and different Spanish experience while in London? This is as good a place as any to start! I had a blast (as did the other participants) and would highly recommend the class to anyone even curious about experiencing one of the world’s most amazing cured meats in a new and unusual way. (Incidentally, if you are lucky enough to score your own whole jamón check out the carving instructions just below.)
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