Saturday, June 6, 2009

Jambon de Paris

Last week we finished a very special ham, Jambon de Paris or the Ham of Paris. Today I find a trend of chefs attempting to recreate high quality dry-cured hams. This can be difficult and takes a few trial and errors to get it right. The right environment, temperature, humidity all must be right for the ham to mature. Time is another factor and it may take at least 6 to 12 months to properly age a dry cured ham. A quality Prosciutto is typically aged 18 months. Another issue is place. My friend and colleague Chef Albert Vernoli tried a slice of dry cured beef we created in the meat fab classroom. We thought it was OK, the salt was right and it sliced really nicely but Chef Vernoli put it very simply with his Italian accent " taste pretty good, but it tastes like the meat room. It should taste like mountain air." Thats the thing about high end dry cured meats, they are created in an environment that helps to create its flavor.

Enter the Jambon de Paris. Jambon de Paris is not dry cured at all, it is a wet cured ham, not really anything more than a quality boiled ham. For most people who consider themselves knowledgeable in food don't typically spend a lot of time thinking about the finer attributes of the boiled ham but this ham is different. My teaching assistant Savannah Jordan helped with this project. First we started with a fresh pork leg from a local hog that I broke down in class. The ham was boned and trimmed really well. Do not trim any of the exterior fat or skin.We cut off the knuckle to make it a more manageable size and then prepared a brine and cured it for about 10 days. The brine recipe was a basic wet cure. Don't tie the ham until after the curing process.
3 gal water
2lbs salt
3/4 lb sugar
5 oz TCM ( tinted curing mix, which has nitrites)
1/4 cup pickling spice
4 cloves garlic, crushed, not chopped
Blend all ingredients until all salt and sugar are dissolved
Place in a deep bucket ( pickle buckets work great) or stainless steel pot. Be sure to keep ham in brine by placing a weight on top. ( we used a plate) You can pump the ham using a needle brine pump to shorten brine time.

Once cured, soak the ham for about 3 - 4 hrs in cool water to release most of the saltiness then tie the ham very tight using a proper butchers knot. Savannah simmered it in about 2 gallons of water, covering the ham, adding a few chopped carrots, celery, onions, a clove of garlic, and a sachet espice. Slow cook it for about two and half hours until the skin becomes gelatinous. Chill the ham in its stock overnight. This may add to the cooking time so don't over cook the ham during the simmering stage. Remove the ham and slice thin with the exterior fat and skin.

Traditionally served on a buttered Baguette with a little Dijon mustard. I like it on rye bread with Emmenthaller Swiss and spicy horseradish mustard ( and a cold IPA)
It makes a nice non- salty alternative to homemade dry cured hams.