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Jamon Iberico de Bellota – The World’s Greatest Ham

Jamon Iberico de Bellota – The World’s Greatest Ham

   

We are happy to see that there are so many other food lovers out there that love to indulge not just in the finest of flavors, but in all of the other fascinating details that make cultural dishes so great outside of taste! You being here not only shows your appreciation for one of Spain’s finest cultural dishes, but it shows that you understand that there is more to this delectable pig than meets the eye.

   

If you’ve ever witnessed the slicing of a Spanish Iberico ham (jamon), you know that it’s a mesmerizing experience. As the blade carves through the marbled layers, you can almost taste the rich, sweet, nutty, velvety goodness. There’s a reason that Iberico ham’s visual appeal is almost as powerful as its taste. When you see the complex marbling of the layers, you know you’re dealing with the highest quality ham. (All of your suspicions are confirmed when it melts in your mouth and the Spanish Iberico ham proves to be anything but “ordinary.” Ordinary is boring… we don’t want ordinary.) Instead, it carries with each bite history, culture, process, and exacting standards. The results are extraordinary. Now that we have given you a little taste, or an appetizer, if you will, let’s get into the first course, Iberico Ham’s history!

    

History and Culture

    

Iberico ham’s origins go far beyond what one may think as just a simple “pig.” The Iberico pig that produces this exquisite ham has wandered the Iberian Peninsula for centuries. It is a very large black pig weighing just shy of 200 pounds with black hooves more commonly known in Spain as “pata negra” and virtually hairless. In modern day Spain, the grazing land where the pata negra pig runs free is called a dehesa. A dehesa, otherwise known as a sparse forest, is specifically required for the production of Iberico ham.

Why is this so? It is because this grazing land is suitable for little else except the raising of livestock. This ecosystem persists in the breezy, slightly cool, Mediterranean climate and is dotted with ancient oak trees that drop the pata negra pig’s favorite food.

      

Do you think you can guess this famous pig’s favorite snack?

I’ll tell you what… if you have no idea, keep reading. But we’ll give you a little hint to help you out… it starts with A.

Are you ready?

... Drumroll please.

It’s the beautiful, delicious, and very healthy Acorn!

                   

    

The acorn, and how much an Iberico pig indulges in it, greatly affects its overall value. Among Iberian pigs, there is a significant distinction. Those that are free range, but eat a varied diet, produce Iberico ham. Those that are allowed to wander in the dehesa forest and eat only acorns (bellotas), however, carry a premium. Famously known as Jamon Iberico de bellota, a diet of acorns gives this deluxe ham its unique flavor and well-earned designation as the best ham in the world. These acorns account for the high healthy fat content (full of oleic acid) and the striking marbling of this delicacy. In Spain, it is well known that the jamon Iberico de bellota can command hundreds of dollars per pound!

   

Now that we know the historical and cultural significance of this famous pig, you can see that it being one of Spain’s finest dishes is completely justified. Now, it’s time to move on to the second dish, the curing and preservation process of Iberico ham.

   

When eaten at room temperature, jamon Iberico de bellota needs nothing else to be amazing. Its texture and flavor profile are so intense and multilayered; it’s an explosion for your taste buds all on its own. When resting atop some crunchy bread, however, and drizzled with olive oil, or paired with a piece of manchego cheese, or even some Spanish olives, this elite culinary masterpiece elevates absolutely anything it comes in contact with. It also goes well with any kind of wine, red or white. We would even go so far as to say it is sublime in its flavor and texture.

  

Spanish Iberico ham is to be appreciated and enjoyed not only for its extraordinary taste, but also for the many moving parts that keep its production going. Without the traditions and processes surrounding its cultivation, this ham would lose something essential. Luckily, in Spain, jamon Iberico de bellota is so revered and sought after, there is little danger of it losing any quality control. And that is very good, (and delicious), news for gourmet lovers everywhere!

  

Curing Process

   

   

The high fat content of the jamon Iberico de bellota also aids in the curing process. The extra layer of fat in acorn fed pata negra pigs allows the ham to be cured for longer, giving those flavors time to mature and fully express themselves. Just because the process may be on the longer side, does not necessarily translate into it being a more complicated one. Instead of a complex curing process, the producers of jamon Iberico de bellota follow an ancient but simple tradition of hanging the legs upside down in a curing cellar for three to five years. Before they are hung, they are skinned, washed, salted, and dried. While they cure, they are carefully monitored to make sure they don’t get too dry or too moist. When ready to be unhooked and taken down, each ham is inspected by highly trained professionals. These professionals can tell when a ham is perfect by using one sense, their sense of smell. Once each ham gets the go ahead from the professionals, they then take the time to slice the ham by hand instead of using a machine, showing a true appreciation and respect for the Iberico ham curing process. Once this process is complete, there is only one thing left to do – enjoy.

   

So now we know where the Iberico pig comes from, why it’s so significant, and how to prepare it. I guess the only question left is, how do you eat it?

   

Pairing Items

   

    

When eaten at room temperature, jamon Iberico de bellota needs nothing else to be amazing. Its texture and flavor profile are so intense and multilayered; it’s an explosion for your taste buds all on its own. When resting atop some crunchy bread, however, and drizzled with olive oil, or paired with a piece of manchego cheese, or even some Spanish olives, this elite culinary masterpiece elevates absolutely anything it comes in contact with. It also goes well with any kind of wine, red or white. We would even go so far as to say it is sublime in its flavor and texture.

    

Spanish Iberico ham is to be appreciated and enjoyed not only for its extraordinary taste, but also for the many moving parts that keep its production going. Without the traditions and processes surrounding its cultivation, this ham would lose something essential. Luckily, in Spain, jamon Iberico de bellota is so revered and sought after, there is little danger of it losing any quality control. And that is very good, (and delicious), news for gourmet lovers everywhere!