It was not for the faint-hearted. But then again, I had never been to a ham launch before.
This is correct: a function to launch a piece of dead South African pig lovingly treated just as the Spanish do with serrano and the Wops (Italians) do with prosciutto.
I must admit, when I initially heard that a few locals were attempting to create serrano ham in our backyard, I was a bit sceptical. This product has always been spoken of in solemn tones of admiration, as if making a serrano or prosciutto could only be done in Europe, and preferably by men whose mothers sport striking facial hair and whose father’s smell of garlic and Brylcreem.
So about 60 people rocked up to Stellenbosch’s Caf+¬ Dijon last week to find a huge guy with white hair called Jason Lucas standing next to a beautiful looking ham. “I think we should just drink to the ham,” said Jason, before he was encouraged to tell us about this product that he had made.
And it soon became obvious that Jason and his mates had not learnt the art of curing decent ham over the internet or in Jambon 101.
No. Spain had been visited to check out the techniques. After the right pigs had been procured in the Stellenbosch vicinity, the legs had been massaged by hand, salted and cured for 14 months in Prince Albert. Spanish consultants had paid Jason a visit to ensure he was not stuffing it up. “They said that ours was the best serrano-style hame they had tasted outside of Spain,” Jason told the audience, who were by now tucking into plates of the gorgeous pink, aromatic ham.
Demand had flown through the roof without any marketing or publicity. Charles Back from Fairview was demanding piles of the stuff, and at this stage there does not seem to be enough to go around.
Fortunately, those attending the launch were well plied. With Jason slicing away, platters were passed around. It was silky, soft, moist, sweet and bloody amazing. All washed down with some Pinot Noir and Grenache Jan Boland Coetzee had bought along for the occasion.
Joaquim Sa, a Portuguese gourmand, could not contain himself. “I want to buy a whole ham,” he told Jason. At R2 500 for a whole leg of cured pork, this was a steal. The imported stuff goes for R8 000, and the local quality is better.
Buckle-up. This local ham is going to be huge for South Africa.
Hoping to flush out the arteries, I waltzed to Balducci a few days later. Nothing like a rocket salad and some mineral water to bring one back to life.
As Borat says: “NAAAAT!”
Thys Louw was in town, still celebrating his spate of accolades for Diemersdal Shiraz and Bordeaux blends. And there’s nothing Thys likes more than getting some pizzas going.
Only, Balducci’s pizza oven had not seen anything like this before.
Fresh foie gras sliced. Pan-fried for a minute on each side. And then the slices were placed on pizza dough before a trip into the pizza oven.
Three, four minutes later you had a foie gras pizza: not tomato or cheese, dummy. Just the crisp dough topped with unctuous morsels of foie gras.
No, you don’t have any idea how good it was. Along with myself, table-mates Jonathan Steyn and,Neil Pendock had eaten some pretty decadent things in our lives, but the foie gras pizza must surely be right up there with Roquefort cheese ice-cream and deep-fried calf brain. Do they do take-out, I wonder?
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