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

A great little family Italian restaurant. Good menu. Quiet setting. Good service. …

by Anthony Dean Morgan on Pulcinella's Italian Restaurant (Durham County)

The Refectory is no longer on the Duke Campus. Their new, permanent location is on Chapel Hill Blvd, and yes …

by Beth Owl's Daughter on The Refectory Cafe (Durham County)

Most Read

Most Recent Comments

It's impossible to decide what's worse with this guy, the opinions or the writing. Well, congrats at least on getting …

by Van Buren Boy on How One Local Server Learned to Stop Worrying About Bird Poop and Embrace Patio Dining (Food Feature)

You forgot to mention Treforni in Durham as one of the more noteworthy independent pizzerias in the area. …

by Shocka Kahn on Pizzeria Faulisi Masters Family Style With Adept Culinary Skill (Food Feature)

Querido Senor Vasquez, Por favor specify YOUR specific Latino country and culture so that we may be assured you only …

by Trizia on Chicken Bridge Bakery Feeds Bodies and Minds with Baked-In Messages of Resistance and Solidarity (Food Feature)

Jesus Vasquez - I don't want to speak for Monica Segovia-Welsh, featured in this story as one-half of the business, …

by victoria_foodeditor on Chicken Bridge Bakery Feeds Bodies and Minds with Baked-In Messages of Resistance and Solidarity (Food Feature)

As for the previous post, please explain the difference between "appropriating" and celebrating/appreciating different cultures.

by Barbara 2 on Chicken Bridge Bakery Feeds Bodies and Minds with Baked-In Messages of Resistance and Solidarity (Food Feature)

© 2017 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