“The leanness of these chops completely baffles me,” I commented to Jose Gomez son when days past I tried them again. They taste like beef milk rather than pork. With my eyes closed I don’t think I would have been able to identify them. Nothing to do with its bacon that reminds me of the best Iberian hams. In the company of the candeal bread that they had offered us in the restaurant A´Barra, meat and bacon were superb. “They come from two-year-old animals that have just been slaughtered at the end of their second period as a montanera. They are ephemeral season cuts, “he replied immediately. “We started to fine-tune this steak in January and it has been in the cellar for two months.”
Refined and unripened fresh meat?
“These are ribs that have not gone through cold chambers like those of beef. We let them refine in natural drying rooms next to our hams and cold meats and at the same temperature, which, as you well know, we regulate by opening and closing windows depending on the weather conditions, as we have always done. In this case without contact with salt or additives of any kind. Its only preservative is the molds in our hams that adhere to the meat and cover it in a short time, preventing its decomposition while acting as flavorings. Refine fresh meat, without salt and without cold involves real risks, a real challenge. Last year we had several ribs spoiled. Now we have perfected the system to achieve what we wanted ”.
For tasting at A´Barra I had settled in front of the bar of the place where the great cook Sergio Manzano he was toiling in his purpose. On the coals, in direct contact with the iron grills, the bacon from those chops, three fingers thick and with a very low melting point, melted in jets, generating tumultuous flames. “First we mark them by the short bone for two or three minutes; then for the length, another two, and finally for the fatty side three minutes. We treat them almost the same as if they were cows ”, he stressed. “We always add salt at the last minute.” In the mouth, elegant, sweet flavors, with a particularly tender bite. An unusual sensation.
I was left to see the stage where the family Gómez carried out the refining process and I went to the dryers of Joselito in Guijuelo four days later. In the company of GómezAs father and son, I entered the refining cellars where thousands of greenish sausages hung covered with the beneficial molds that give them part of their characteristics. In front of those sausage walls were fresh ribs hanging from two racks. “They are the last that we are going to refine this campaign, we have already concluded the sacrifices,” they told me.
“Our system resides in something as simple as placing the chops near other sausages so that the molds naturally transfer from one to the other. We want them to be impregnated with the same aromas that they contribute to hams. Initially we matured them in cold rooms like all meats and they were perfect, but they lacked the flavor we were looking for. We have managed to refine them for up to four months together with the sausages and hams. After repeated tests in the Josper and the Kamado we have concluded that they are tastier when tuned for less time. In sixty days they reach their sweet spot. From that moment on they are no longer so good. With the pig it happens to me the same as with the beef, detected strange smells as the times lengthen. I like meats that smell like what they are. If someone wants to age them, there each one. With me they do not count, “he insisted Jose Gomez dad.
How many molds are there in your cellars?
“Thirty-something, registered and classified. Even a purple one that nobody has. The molds Iberian hams are equivalent to the yeasts of chamomile from Sanlúcar and the fine sherry. They provide aromatic complexity, fruity notes and hints of dried fruit. A world full of mystery. Those of the genre abound Penicillium what did you discover Alexander Fleming”.
Where can you taste these chops?
“In 2021 we have sold only 600 ribs, most of which have been purchased by our customers. In A´Barra We occasionally have them off the chart, always in restricted quantities to meet sporadic requests. We will see in future campaigns ”.
Before saying goodbye, Jose Gomez son roasted two chops in the kamado of his house. Again I experienced the same sensations, sweet, elegant meats, with very fine flavors and with a crazy bacon.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.