The process of preparing the Mangalica ham consists of a series of phases based on the centuries-old tradition of Spanish cured ham.
As we have said, the Mangalica, due to its genetic characteristics, its way of life (it passes the harsh winters in the Hungarian steppes and is free ranging), its natural feeding (based on corn, wheat and pastures), and the maturity that it reaches, is ideal for processing the premium quality cured ham, more and more appreciated by gourmets world-wide.
Mangalica hams usually weigh between 7 and 7.5 kg after a curing that can last up to 36 months, with the average cure of the shoulders being somewhat less, up to 20-24 months.
The processing of Mangalica ham, in the traditional style in dryers located in natural environments and controlled by master artisans, produces a cured ham with its own distinct flavor. The tasting sample presents a section with intense reds and a very striking veining of infiltrated fat. The very light and fluid fat melts quickly in the mouth. The aroma is delicate, yet with a strong character and with hints of nuts that linger on the palate.
The main brand specialized in the preparation of ham and Mangalica high-cure shoulders is Monte Nevado: It controls the entire process from the selection, breeding, feeding and monitoring of the animals, through to the curing. It also has the knowledge, experience and natural cellars necessary.
The preparation of Mangalica Cured Ham
The process of preparing the Mangalica ham consists of a series of phases based on the centuries-old tradition of Spanish cured ham. This technique of using the Spanish tradition for Hungarian Mangalica products has been designed, tested and applied by Monte Nevado. It is a controlled process in modern facilities that, nevertheless, reproduces the environmental and climatic conditions of natural curing.
1. First classification
As it arrives at the dryers, each Mangalica ham is evaluated and analyzed by the ham master artisans, and classified according to the type (ham or shoulder), the weight, the size, the amount of fat, etc.
To remove those parts of the ham that are not needed, its shape (muscle, fat and skin), and checking that there are no cracks where the meat can be contaminated.
This is fundamental because it prevents the proliferation of bacteria, and its flavor is created. First, is to ensure that no blood remains, then leave it in sea salt and curing agents at between 3 and 4 degrees. The high humidity allows its infiltration into the tissues.
4. Drained and Molded
Each ham is "drained" and molded to obtain suitable proportions and shape.
5. Controlled drying and classifications
One of the keys to a good Mangalica ham is the long-term curing in a dryer. This allows it to acquire its characteristic flavors and aromas, and this is what has opened the doors to the best gourmet stores. It starts with a wintry temperature, which increases progressively, with controlled ventilation, until a homogeneous distribution of salt and a slow removal of water are achieved. This phase is composed of a succession very careful curing and sorting to obtain the best Mangalica aroma and flavor, controlled by the ham master with sampling and individual reviews.
6. Natural drying – cellar and final classification
The hams go into a natural dryer, the "cellar", with natural air flow through a system of opening and closing of windows. With one cellar located near the Sierra de Guadarrama, in Carbonero El Mayor, and another in the Sierra de Cameros, they are conceived and designed to take advantage of outdoor conditions. These are places with unique conditions, for aging in natural microclimates. A Mangalica cured ham can be in the cellar for up to 3 and a half years, where the dehydration and "sweating" of the fat and the biochemical processes that strengthen the aromas take place. Monte Nevado makes up to 4 classifications, the last being the individual control of the perfect moment of curing.