Jamón is Spanish for ham. But it is so much more. Jamón Serrano is common, cured, Spanish ham. That, of course, is like saying that Prosciutto is just common, cured, Italian ham. It is rich, salty, gamey and cured longer than Prosciutto – over 18 months.
Jamón Ibérico is cured Black Iberian pig from western Spain. Jamón Iberico is a special treat. Jamón Ibérico de bellota is Black Iberian pig fed exclusively on a diet of acorns during the weeks leading up to slaughter. This delivers an incredible rich, fine ham.
Sounds kinda weird, right? What’s up with the acorn diet thing? This is actually not so unusual. In fact, an animal’s diet overtly influences the taste of the meat. A cow fed a diet of corn has a rich, buttery flavor, while grass-fed beef, though trendy, tastes gamey and is often unappealing to the American palette. As a result, you will often find grass-fed beef – with all of its accompanying Omega-3 health benefits – finished with a diet of corn that gives it a decadent, Midwestern flavor.
So, how good is Jamón Ibérico? It’s amazing, and you will pay for it. Usually around $150 per pound. But it is well worth it. The good news is that you buy and eat jamón just like Prosciutto, a paper-thin slice at a time. The really good news is that Jamón Serrano is relatively affordable at around $22 a pound.
Now, I am not struggling to find ways to dump excess cash. De bellota is a special event in our home. Try it for an anniversary, a visit from your foodie in-laws, or the night you propose to the love of your life. For the rest of the year, Serrano ham will do just fine. Do me a favor: buy 1/4 pound of Serrano ham and 1/4 pound of Jamoón Ibérico de bellota. Sit down with your friends and do a tasting. In fact, get them to bring the wine. It will more than pay for the ham and your life will be forever richer.