When it comes to the world famous “Jamón Ibérico de Bellota”, suddenly even non-foodies start sniffing its exquisite aroma, cherishing its beautiful marbling and letting it gently melt on their tongue… What an experience and what a pleasure!! So no, not all cold cuts are the same.
The ham is actually that rooted into Spanish culture, that even vegetarians might occasionally give into one slice or another. And difficult it is to avoid in our cuisine, since it adds so much flavor to any dish you might think of: on top of an fried egg and potato, with some fresh artichokes or porra soup. Delicious!
But the best way to discover and enjoy all of its unique und highly appreciated features, is to simply eat it without anything- no bread, no nothing. Paired with a good wine, of course.
So that’s why we want to show you in this “Ultimate Iberian Ham Guide” what is important to know about our ham and what you need to look for to get the real deal.
When selecting a ham, there are two main aspects you need to take into account: the breed and the diet.
The breed our prized ham comes from is the “ibérico” (Iberian) pork. It’s a black pig that is a mix between our wild boar and the pigs the Phoenicians brought to the peninsula thousands of years ago. Nevertheless, concerning the ham, the percentage of this breed can vary: so you can find 100% Iberian hams (both parents were Iberian; pure-bred), but as well 75% or 50% when they were crossed with other pigs like the Duroc.
IBERIAN PIG DIET
The diet on the other side can be divided into three groups:
- Bellota (100% acorn fed)
- Cebo de Campo (some acorns, resources of the pasture, grain and feed)
- Cebo (only commercial feed).
The bellota ham is of the highest quality, since the pigs roam in pasture and oak groves (“dehesa”) to feed naturally on acorns, grass, herbs and aromatic plants, until the slaughtering time approaches.
At that point, the diet may be strictly limited to acorns, the pig’s delicacy par excellence and key to its flavor: healthy and natural food for the pig, which adds sweetness to i