The story of Jamón Ibérico ham is steeped in mystery and romance. The ancient oak pastures of Spain, the noble black Ibérico pig, the mountain air which caresses each ham as it magically is transformed into one of the world's most exquisite foods - all play a part in this uniquely Spanish phenomenon. Without each ingredient the recipe is disturbed. Greatness can only be achieved with patience, skill and adherence to traditional methods.
The origin of the Ibérico pig goes back millennia, even to the time of the cavemen who decorated the caves of Spain with their art. These are the original swine of Spain, tamed over the centuries. Only in the last couple of hundred years have the pink pigs of our imagination invaded their territory. The Ibérico hog is big, with slender legs and a very long snout. Ibérico pigs are black, with very little hair. They have black hooves as well, which is the source of the phrase “pata negra” which describes the black hoof that remains on the ham throughout the curing process and distinguishes it from a Serrano ham.
They are also much fatter animals with marbling running through the muscle of the pig. This, along with the large amount of fat layering each ham, allows the Ibérico hams to be cured much longer, resulting in a much more complex, intense flavor, with a note of sweetness that is unparalleled.
The hams from the slaughtered pigs are salted and left to begin drying for two weeks, after which they are rinsed and left to dry for another four to six weeks. The curing process then takes at least twelve months, although some producers cure their jamones ibéricos for up to 48 months.
The hams are labeled according to the pigs' diet and the percentage of the pigs' Iberian ancestry, with an acorn diet and pure-bred Iberians being most desirable. The current labeling system, based on a series of color-coded labels, was phased in starting in January 2014.
Seven Seas Gourmet foods offers several types of Jamon and Paleta Ibérico. Follow our news blog as we are starting our Jamon tasting events soon.