La Cala, the art to know if a ham is well cured
La cala is a long and sharp instrument of around 12 centimeters long and is made with cow or horse bone. The most important and essential characteristic is that it is odourless.
It is said that la cala is an art because it is something that few people can do. Only the most specialized ones may do it. To carry it out requires to be very well training, skills and knowledge to know how and where to introduce la cala in the ham or shoulder.
How is la cala used?
La cala is used as a tool to determine if a ham or shoulder is suitable for consumption. It is introduced in specific places for the piece to be evaluated, and through the smell the presence of any defect may be detected, as well as quality. Basically, it is the action of introducing la cala into the ham and analyzing its aromas.
To do it, the object must be quickly introduced in order not to damage the piece. It may be introduced in the union of the femur and the bone of the hip; in the anterior union, but in the part of the babilla, or in the union of the tibia and fibula with the femur. Afterwards, we will cover the split to avoid the air to enter and oxidize the piece or and avoid parasites to enter.
Normally, there is an expert who makes this process in the dryers. It is rarely done in the shops because it is assumed that all the pieces that are in poor condition have already been removed from the market. In addition, as we have already said, this process needs years of work and experience, so only few people working in shops have enough smell and knowledge to make it correctly without damaging the piece.
What is la cala used for?
La cala is used to control defects and to determine the quality of each piece. As it is impossible to alter the smell of a ham or shoulder, if we have a piece with clean, intense and persistent aroma we can assure that we are facing an Iberian ham ready to consume. Basically, la cala is the last quality control.