22 February 2019
Snowy white cured pork back fat can make for an unforgettable dish. Photo: HKEJ
Snowy white cured pork back fat can make for an unforgettable dish. Photo: HKEJ

Ham from the Alps

Some years ago when I was at the Camp Nou stadium, the home of the FC Barcelona club, in Spain, I came across a specialty store that offered Iberian ham produced in different countries.

Almost all the items tasted heavenly, carrying a fruity touch and leaving an impressive aftertaste.

On a recent trip to a place at the foot of the Alps, I was privileged to visit a local farm and a traditional dry-cured ham maker, thanks to an old buddy who has lived in Austria for over 30 years.

The domestic pigs at the farm were very tidy and clean. Though they were unlike the Iberian pigs that are fed with acorns, the Austrian farmers raise the animals only with natural feed.

Gazing at the little chubby creatures I suddenly became anxious as I realized that the meat would be quite fatty, which could pose certain health risks.

“Fat is a crucial decisive factor,” said the farmer in an authoritative voice, obviously trying to grab my attention again.

I had to agree that too-lean meat wouldn’t be right for ham and sausages.

Take the Chinese sausage in Hong Kong as an example. In recent years the city has been offering some healthy options which involve the blending of lean pork and fatty pork in the ratio of 9:1. That made the sausages not too good.

Perfect sausages, in my opinion, should have a blend of 70 percent lean meat and 30 percent fatty meat. The same applies to dry-cured ham.

At the Austrian farm, the owner sliced me some of the snowy white cured pork back fat, which was unforgettably delicious.

The long ample daylight and dry climate in the continental region makes it perfect to dry-cure salted pork legs.

I tried the 8-month-old, 15-month-old and 36-month-old ham. Without doubt, the older the ham the better they tasted.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 23.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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