Jamon Iberico de Bellota

April 26, 2009 5 Comments

Jamon Iberico de Bellota

Is A $185 Per Pound Pork Product Worth It?

Who doesn’t enjoy trying new products? One of the great advantages of being into food is there is always something new and different to try. Sometimes it’s great and sometimes not so wonderful.

A while back we were going to visit some friends and I thought it might be fun to bring something different to their house to serve as an appetizer with a glass of wine. At our local Farmer’s Market, I asked my friend Cheeseman Jack for a great cheese and some sort of cured meat.

Jack who you might remember turned me on to that wonderful Chabichou du Poitou cheese, that rich, soft goat’s milk cheese from France. This time he said he come into some Jamon Iberico de Bellota, but it was pricey. I’m thinking it is a cured pork product, how expensive can it be. I am shocked to tell you it was $185/pound!

Being interested in trying something pork that cost that much, I was game to taste it, but I could only afford 4 paper-thin slices! It was delicious, but honestly, I am not sure that I would have been able to tell the difference between it and some good Italian prosciutto at a fraction of the price.

To be fair, I did not do a side-by-side taste comparison. After tasting Spain’s finest (and most expensive) pork product, I decided to do a little research to see what I could find out about this ham. What on earth could the Spanish do to this ham to make it worth almost $200/pound? I found out some really interesting information.

Jamon Iberico Spanish Ham

The best Spanish ham, Jamon Iberico, comes from the cerdo negro, or the Black Iberian Pig. These pigs are an ancient breed whose roots can be traced back to about 1000 BC, when pigs that were brought over to the Iberian Peninsula (now Spain and Portugal) from the Eastern Mediterranean were interbred with native wild boars.

These pigs are unique in many ways. They have lots of fat deposits under the skin, and fat is also deposited between the muscle fibers. This fairly even distribution of fat interspersed with muscle helps to give a very buttery and rich flavor to the final hams. Also, these pigs are natural grazers.

Unlike most domesticated pig breeds, the Black Iberian Pig grazes about and forages for its own food – acorns.

Depending on the grade of Jamon Iberico that the producer is making, the pigs are fed, especially during the weeks leading up to their “sacrifice,” either a straight diet of acorns, a mixed diet of acorns and grains or straight grain. The highest grade of Jamon Iberico is Jamon Iberico de Bellota (meaning “acorn”), which is made from pigs fed strictly on acorns.

Once sacrificed, the hams are salted and left to dry for two weeks. Then, they are rinsed and left to dry for another four to six weeks. The total curing process takes between 24 and 48 months.

What About the “Good Fat”

Here’s the really interesting part. Because the pigs ate a diet high in monounsaturated fats from the acorns, much of the fat in the ham is oleic acid. This is a “good fat” that has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. Imagine that?

“Bacon” that is good for your cholesterol! I can’t wait to tell my friend Jeff who has this belief that there is nothing on this earth that doesn’t go well with either a pork product or chocolate.

Like I said, even after doing all this research and finding out about Jamon Iberico de Bellota, I’m still not sure that I could tell the difference between it and prosciutto. I will say that Italian prosciutto and Spanish Jamon Iberico both embody the true spirit of preservation – taking something that would otherwise spoil quickly and treating it with great attention to detail to make a final product that is not only edible but incredibly delicious.

Where to Buy Jamon I berico de Bellota

True Jamon Iberico de Bellota has only been available legally in the United States since the middle of 2008. If you would like to try it for yourself, it is available on the Internet at :

Buying Jamon Serrano Ham

 

 

Last modified on Thu 24 September 2015 1:30 pm

Filed in: All About Meats

Comments (5)

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  1. Drew @ Cook LIke Your Grandmother says:

    I was surprised to hear about ultra-premium hogs being fed grain, considering all the current discussion of the benefits of grass feeding. So I went to look up whether acorns are technically a grain, or a nut. I can’t really find a definitive answer, but I *did* find this amazing article about the history of human consumption of acorns: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Modern-Homesteading/1984-09-01/Acorns-The-Grain-That-Grows-on-Trees.aspx

    Now I want to check my neighborhood for oak trees and keep an eye out this fall.

  2. RG says:

    Hi Drew and thanks for the link to this interesting article. Who Knew? I really like your site and will be spending more time on it and letting my readers know about what you are doing at http://blog.cooklikeyourgrandmother.com/
    Great writing! – RG

  3. JORGE says:

    HI, THE IBERIO IS MUCH BETTER THAN PROSCIUTTO, PROSCIUTTO TASTES LIKE THE CHEAPEST KIND OF SERRANO HAM, NOTHING TO COMPARE TO THE SPANISH SERRANO, BELLOTA , ALSO THERE ARE DIFFERENT TYPES DEPENDING OF THE REGION, TERUEL , GUIJUELO, OR BLACK LEG 5JS FROM SANCHEZ ROMERO CARVAJAL WHICH IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE….. BUT ALL TASTE EXCELLENT …..ALSO NO LEG TASTES THE SAME IS KIND OF LIKE WINE….

  4. Jamon 7 Bellotas says:

    Best Jamon Iberico in Spain is 7 Bellotas and now buy online straight from the source in Guijuelo
    7bellotas.com

  5. Steve says:

    The price is totally worth it. It takes years of raising the animals, feeding the acorns / bellotas and then curing the meat. Aussies can source their supply at Spanish Deli.

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