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Which breed produces the most tasty Ibérico

Posted November 30, 2007

I had heard from several sources in Spain, including breeders in Spain that a 100% pure bred cerdo Ibérico is not the best source for Ibérico Bellota ham. That sounded counter-intuitive to me.

So, through Jamie, head of La Tienda's office in Spain, I had an enlightening conversation Antonio Gázquez Ortíz the other day about what breed makes the best Jamón Ibérico?

Antonio is a man of extraordinary breadth. A department head at the University of Extremadura at Caceres, he is a research scientist, renowned gastronome, and devoted father.

More to the point, he is perhaps the world leading authority concerning Jamón Ibérico. (You can read about him in an update I wrote for La Tienda entitled "The Professor of Jamón" (http://www.tienda.com/reference/updates.html?id=7088)

His reply is that there are some companies, including industry leader Sánchez Romero Carvajal in Jabugo, Huelva that do raise pure 100% Ibérico hogs. There are other brands that  include ham products sourced  from "cruzados” (meaning 75% Cerdo Iberico 25% Duroc). The law requires a clear distinction. You can say Iberico 100% Puro or Iberico Cruzado. To be a cruzado it must be at least 75%.

The 100% Iberico Puro has a lot more fat, and therefor is very flavorful. Senor Vázquez pointed out that a 100% Iberico requires about one more year in the Bodega, extending the curing time up to 40-42 months. He cautioned that extra time curing in bodega translates into to a much higher cost.

Personally, Antonio prefers to eat a cruzado. He believes that the meat has a more enjoyable flavor.