Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tapas Tuesday: Jamón Iberico

This weeks tapa: jamón iberico
(My) English translation: "thinly sliced pieces of heaven"

Once upon a time I was a vegetarian. Back in 2011 I made my first trip to Spain on a crazy whim to get to know this Spanish man I had met in Turkey a little better; hours of skype just wasn't enough. In hindsight I'm happy to have acted on instinct, however spontaneous it was. It was during these wonderful two weeks that I was introduced to jamón. This salty, silky, cured and incredibly thinly sliced piece of meat called me out of my vegetarian state, taunted me with its rich aromas and acclaimed amazing-ness. From the moment I tried my first piece, there was no looking back, and I have been a content meat-eater ever since.

So let's have a quick class on jamón. There are two general kinds: serrano and ibérico. Let's start at the bottom of the list in terms of quality. 

Jamón serrano is made from ordinary white pigs from the 'sierra' or the mountains. These pigs are not fed a strict diet, usually just commercial compound feed. They are lowest on the quality list of jamón and also cheapest in the stores (however still yummy!). 

Jamón Iberico is made from black Iberian pigs. The quality of jamón iberico depends on what the pigs are fed. If we continue our list from bottom to top, Iberian pigs fed compound feed come next.

Jamón Iberico de cebo o campo these little piggies are fed natural feed and are allowed a period of field grazing for up to 2 months.

Jamón Iberico de recebo these little piggies are pasture fed along with a mix of acorns and compound feed

Jamón Iberico de bellota sits at the top of the list. Best quality, best taste, most expensive. And these little piggies are free-range and fed a diet of acorns.

Jamón Iberico (and serrano) is a perfect pairing with cheese, bread, and wine- you really don't need much else. However, the dry-cured meat is combined with many different plates. Jamón is so popular, there is even a national holiday dedicated after it- November 6th: Día del Jamón!

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