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Postcard from... Malaga


Even for the Spanish, cutting a good slice of air-cured ham, one of their popular traditional delicacies, can be a risky business.

One Spanish medical foundation claimed last week that 57,000 domestic accidents involving ham knives – which have blades over a foot long – take place annually.

But maybe not for long: as Christmas approaches (when the largest percentage of the 4.5 million ham legs purchased every year in Spain are sold), Juan Carlos Gomez, the Spanish National Champion of Hamcutting, has been touring Spain giving master classes in how best to tackle a jamon serrano.

Mr Gomez most recently showed up in Malaga, revealing to the winners of a competition organised by Navidul, one of the country's biggest Serrano producers, secrets of the trade such as whether to hang the leg with the hoof pointing up or down when cutting and which part of the ham to cut first.

For those unable to attend his classes, Mr Gomez, pictured, has even written a bluffer's guide (rather more cruelly called a "guide for the clumsy" in Spanish) to ham, as part of a popular series of self- ducation books covering everything from childbirth to wine tasting to, somewhat less predictably, neurolinguistics.

Apart from eager and rookie cutters having an injury-free ham-eating experience, the ultimate aim of his classes and book is to carve out the perfect slice of serrano.

This apparently is 3cm to 5cm long – "not so big that we have to fold it over or so small that it doesn't taste of anything," Gomez told the newspaper Ideal.