Monday, February 11, 2008

Pick: Iberico Ham


Some of you know that I am actually half Spanish. My Mom is from Galicia, Spain. I spent 3 years of my childhood in Madrid and we spend every summer in the Baleric island of Mallorca. And with that background comes an unbound love for one of the best things Spain has to offer the world: The Iberico Ham.

If you like ham, say Italian parma or San Daniele, you have no idea what the "pata negra" is like. It is simply in a category by itself. The pig, a mix of the domestic pig and the Iberico wild boar, sports a black hoof, hence its name "pata negra", litterally "black leg". It suffer from the same genetic disease that Kobe beef does, namely the fat is intermixed with the meat which gives it a marbled look and its exquisite taste. Yes, the taste is always in the fat.

Here is the rub though, you couldn't get it in the US, until this year that is. For years I was frustrated that I couldn't procure myself this fine pig. Every time I would go to Spain I would buy a leg and eat it over the course of 3 weeks. Sometimes I would sneak some back to the US (along with Pipas con sal, another one of my favorites) but mostly I would long, all year long, for most ultimate of bacons.

Finally 2008 is a brilliant year and the borders have opened for the Iberico. My mom was egging me to become an importer, now that I am looking for a new line of business and I did fancy the image of "pig farmer" or "pig importer" for a little while but decided it was too much work. Also a few specialty shops have already started importing it from Spain. I have ordered it from a shop called "Delicias de Espana". It comes a little pricey at $700 for 10 pounds or $70 a pound, but blame the strong Euro and know that even in Spain, the best of this stuff does sell for $70/pound. I think it means this is not going mainstream any time soon but that is just fine by me. I can afford it and there has got to be a reason why I made a small fortune, so that I can afford fancy pig!

The ham arrived today by UPS, I have already put on 1/2 pound!

PS: by mail, a great picture from Juha with this caption:
"Your true legacy, JBoss old-timers appreciation for Spanish Ham"
This is the real deal a "5 jotas" with the actual bone. I recognize Jean-Frederic Clere, holding the ham, his wife is spanish so he knows his stuff.

22 comments:

royrusso said...

... and I still can't find Prosciutto di Parma in the suburban wasteland I live in.

Plenty of the Canadian crap they try to pass off as prosciutto though.

Alef said...

Pata Negra really is the best thing the Spanish have brought us. So you do have taste afterall Marc ;-).

Julien said...

Marc, next time you come in Paris, come and try: bellota bellota

http://www.lefooding.com/restaurant-68-bellota__bellota.htm

Marcf said...

Are you talking about "Boar's head" that brand that Publix caries? it is actually alright. Not great but alright. There are very few decent places for ham in ATL. There used to be eatzis and they carried really good Serano which is the equivalent of Parma but spanish. They had "reserva 12mo" and it really was borderline "jabugo/iberico".

Finally they discontinued the ham because "there wasn't enough of a market for high end ham" according to the head of purchases.

The store eventually went belly up and much to my dismay the head of purchases resurfaced in the cheese dept of Buckhead's wholefoods. Damn you, reality!

Marcf said...

Julien,

ca a l'air bien bon bellota-bellota.

For our non-french or spanish speaking friends. Bellota means "acorn" which is what our friendly pig eats.

For the little story, I once read that what was limiting the exports of the ham was the supply of acorn. There is plenty of demand in the EU (and soon US if the euro goes down a bit) and there are plenty of pigs but not enough acorns to feed them all to meet demand.

Hopefully, thinking about it twice, the demand in the US does NOT pick up or the prices are going to go through the roof! They are already outrageous as they are.

Marcf said...

alef,

why did you ever doubted I have taste? food is the most important thing in my life.

royrusso said...

Boar's Head offers a Prosciutto Piccolo... which they try to pass off as Prosciutto di Parma - its made in Canada. My refined pallet cannot be fooled!

Eatzis, is gone?!

Shaun Connolly said...

I am a big fan of real Prosciutto di Parma and had the pleasure of experiencing Iberico ham during my JBoss World Barcelona trip.

This is no mere "high end ham"...Mmmmmmm.....Iberico. I've gained a half pound just reading this article. :-)

Marcf said...

Roy,
beware don't get the picolo get the big one. Sliced right it is actually ok. Last day I ordered half a pound of the ham. Left to pick something else and when I came back it was all bunched up in a ball, no paper to separate it all and she had left too much of the skin on. I just left it there and left.

Marcf said...

Shaun,
yeah those iberico plates were something else. We always knew how to party in style in the old days. I don't mean the Barcelona clubs but the meat ;)
my vivid memory is of Bill Burke standing next to a plate and literally stuffing his mouth with the stuff and looking at me and saying with his mouth full "hees izzz hoood stuffff". Priceless. I think we ran a 10k bill on the pig. R

Marcf said...

oh And Roy,
thank god eatzis closed. That was one pretentious store. They were good for a while. But then the classical music got out of control. You know how some restaurants play their music too loud or some employees play metal at top volume, eatzies did it with opera and it would drive me mad. Buckhead betties however would lap it up. Like if was a special fancy place. Ladies would slow down their pace when they entered the store like they do when they shop at fancy stores. It would drive me nuts. And then of course I had this personal feud with the purchase department that removed my favorite ham and then moved on like the plague to destroy the cheese department of whole foods. If you are going to be high end offer high end food and charge 70 per pound and the ones who know and crave the stuff will happily pay and thank you for it, like I just did. Fancy music doesnt do jack for me and apparently didn't fool the betties either. I wasn't sorry to see them go. I had no use for them by then. Publix was comparable. Then of course there was the fact that ben sabrin loved to go there to get his lunch salad. he was sorry to see them go.

royrusso said...

"That was one pretentious store."

You live in Buckhead. They're all pretentious.

All I knew them for, were their great sandwiches. Yes, the opera stuff was not METAL, but it was always entertaining to sit in the lunch area and watch the betties. I felt like a foreigner in there.

grant said...

Marc,

did you get yours via http://ijam.es?

grant

Alef said...

Marc,

well I can still remember a pretty tasteless Batman show at TSS a few years back, but well, that's probably my Dutch nature that made me not appreciate it very much ;-). So yes, I was a bit surprised...

rgds,
Alef Arendsen

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