Mateo puts ham in its jam and delights | Food Feature | Indy Week
Pin It

Mateo puts ham in its jam and delights 

Indeed, ham in jam, at Mateo in downtown Durham

Photo by Alex Boerner

Indeed, ham in jam, at Mateo in downtown Durham

I distinctly remember my first taste of conservas, Spanish food preserved in cans or jars. It was rich, salty and, yes, meaty.

I was a young traveler in Barcelona and eager to experience everything. In Spain, preserved foods are not simply a matter of economic survival; rather, the long tradition is a way to relish the best ingredients at a later date and with an updated flavor. In Barcelona, these preserved delicacies are often served as hors d'oeuvres, accompanied by wine, sherry or vermouth.

I'm not so young now, and I'm in Durham, not Barcelona. But almost a decade later, I found myself reminiscing on those earlier days while tasting and sipping the small offerings at Mateo, the hip tapas bar in downtown Durham with the alluring mission of "Spanish small plates with a Southern inflection."

"Food preservation is part of our vision at Mateo," explains sous chef and Durham native Scott Perry. "It's about getting our hands on quality products to put up for later in the season."

So Mateo showcases its food-preservation acumen to "use up the leftover ham" with a seasonal jamon mermelada—a small tapas frías made of preserved "ham jam," pickled persimmons and fermented espelette pepper mustard.

"Make sure you try it all together," encourages Perry.

Spread atop a toasty baguette slice, the jamon mermelada is a mélange of the sweet, salty and porcine. At first, you taste the caramelized brown sugar and onions, balanced by aromatics and the approachable bitterness of sherry vinegar. The distinct, mild spice of the espelette mustard mixes with the sweet honey flavors of the quartered-and-pickled fuyu persimmons. It's a perfect hors d'oeuvre, full on complimentary and contrasting flavors.

As the summer harvest comes to an end, most canners begin to store away their jelly jars for the winter. But Mateo remains steadfast in its plan to continue preserving throughout the fall and winter.

"We're playing with something I call hillbilly yuzu," reveals Perry of Mateo's fall preservation plans, speaking of the tart Asian citrus that's been increasingly sneaking into area kitchens. It's an interesting experiment, indeed; with the flavor, color and texture changes involved during the preservation process, you can rarely be certain of what you're going to get.

As the Spanish might say—that is, if I remember correctly from my travels—"Así es la vida," or that's life.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Ham in jam?

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Food Feature



Twitter Activity

Comments

Don't waste your $$ here. Horrible service, mediocre food. From what we heard - kitchen turnover is the issue due …

by Ibaguru on Piedmont Restaurant (Durham County)

I don't want to give this place any stars. We were just there this past weekend and the service was …

by Ibaguru on Piedmont Restaurant (Durham County)

Most Read

Most Recent Comments

The people of Cleveland have a different version of a steamer.

by Shocka Kahn on Kaffeinate’s Iced Okinawan Steamer Is Summer’s Answer to Pumpkin Spice (Food Feature)

From Paragraph 3. Quote " It has long filled its labor pools with migrant workers willing to do the dirty, …

by Timothy Oswald on The Immigrants Packing Your Butterball Turkey Are under Threat (Food Feature)

"Might we suggest the next time the author visits a Tiki bar, she could perhaps ask the Bartender to add …

by Jacob Crim on The Triangle's Tropical Drinks Are Mighty Tasty, but Their History Is Harder to Swallow (Food Feature)

If memory serves, the whole lawn culture thing was started by medieval British & French aristocrats, in order to a] …

by Jon Howell on Urban Agriculture Could Potentially Produce a Tenth of the World's Food. Is Grass Really the Best Use for Your Yard? (Food Feature)

Embarrassingly low quality journalism. The author would do well to properly investigate some of the studies that were mentioned and …

by Matthew Christopher on In Carrboro's first kava bar, Krave, getting kozy is hard (Food Feature)

© 2018 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation