Posted January 27, 2009
Europe’s tradition of grand and flavorful hams includes Germany’s Westphalian ham, Italy’s Prosciutto de Parma, and France’s Bayonne. Exquisite as these are, in the gourmet world Jamón Ibérico de Bellota from Spain is the most prized.
Until now, La Tienda has been delighting our friends with thin slices of paleta, the cured shoulder of the pig. Now, for the first time, we are able to offer slices from the jamón, which cures for twice as long, and has the most intense flavor.
Each part of the name Jamón Ibérico de Bellota holds a key to why it is the world’s finest ham.
Ibérico refers to the incredible Ibérico pigs, the rare black beauties that range the ‘dehesa’ forests of western Spain, and are found nowhere else in the world. They are tall, with black hair and black hooves (“pata negra” in Spanish). They are also very fat when mature, unlike the skinny low-fat pigs of modern agriculture. This allows the hams to age for over two years without drying up – an incredible 40% of the ham melts away while the flavor matures during curing.
Bellota is the Spanish word for acorn, and Ibérico pigs love acorns! They consume about 10 pounds a day during the ‘montanera’, or acorn season, each fall. The sweet acorns contain antioxidants that are the key to the extended aging of these hams.
Jamón refers to the back leg of the Ibérico pig, which is larger, more marbled and can be cured longer than the ‘Paleta’, or front leg.
Patience is rewarded. The extra year of curing means another year of the magic process where the acorn-flavored fat internally bastes the exquisitely marbled meat. Que rico! The rich flavor of the jamón is balanced and intense.
What a treat!
Compared to the paleta, jamón slices are bigger, the fat is more integrated, and the flavor is more intense. Even in Spain it’s hard to find true Jamón Ibérico de Bellota slices available for sale. This ham is the culmination of the traditions and ancient countryside of Spain.