Jamón ibérico

Jamón ibérico (Iberian Ham), also known as pata negra (black hoof) is a type of cured ham produced mainly in Spain but also in some Portuguese regions where it is known as presunto ibérico.

Under Spain’s Denominación de Origen rules on food production, the jamón ibérico may be made only from black Iberian pigs, or cross-bred pigs provided they are at least 75% ibérico.

The Iberian black pig lives primarily in the south and southwest parts of Spain, including the provinces of Salamanca, Ciudad Real, Cáceres, Badajoz, Seville, Córdoba and Huelva. It also lives in central and southern Portugal.

Immediately after weaning, the piglets are fattened on barley and maize for several weeks. The pigs are then allowed to roam in pasture and oak groves to feed naturally on grass, herbs, acorns, and roots, until the slaughtering time approaches. At that point, the diet may be strictly limited to olives or acorns for the best quality jamón ibérico, or may be a mix of acorns and commercial feed for lesser qualities.

The hams from the slaughtered pigs are salted and left to begin drying for two weeks, after which they are rinsed and left to dry for another four to six weeks. The curing process then takes at least twelve months, although some producers cure their jamones ibéricos for up to 4 years.

The hams are labeled according to the pigs' diet, with an acorn diet being most desirable. The finest is called jamón ibérico de bellota. This ham is from free-range pigs that roam oak forests (called dehesas) along the border between Spain and Portugal, and eat only acorns during the last period. It is also known as jamón ibérico de Montanera. The exercise and diet have a significant impact on the flavour of the meat; the ham is cured for 36 months.

I have long been a fan of Iberian ham or Jamón ibérico as it should really be called, but was also aware that there are great differences in quality as was indicated by the wild variations in price. Last week while in Segovia we visited a specialist Jamón ibérico shop where we bought a small pack of the ham which we found to be absolutely delicious, even Sue who is not normally a fan thought it very good. Following this when we saw a 3 for 2 offer of Jamón ibérico in the local supermarket we jumped at it not realising till we reached the checkout that it was €18.90 a pack and that works out at €126.00 (£98.65) a kilo. It is jamón ibérico de bellota which is the best quality and at that price it should be.

Last updated Sunday 21st June 2015                                                                                © S W Ghost 2015