Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ode to Jamon (Ham)

Pata Negra: Translation? Black pig ham legs (and lots of 'em)

When Delora lived in the States, she thought ham was beneath her.  She remembers a childhood filled with nightmarish holiday meals at her Aunt's house, featuring molded ham from a can decorated with maraschino cherries.  Those days ensured that Delora would never voluntarily eat pink meat again.

Delora at the Ham Museum Store.  
Photo courtesy: Tay

Delora first tasted Iberian Pata Negra de Bellota at a friend's house just after arriving in Spain.  Eager to avoid appearing fussy and priggish, she took a big bite and was delighted to find that the Pata Negra didn't even taste like meat -- it tasted like nuts! Delora found herself hogging the whole platter of pricey meat as though making up for a lifetime of Pata Negra deprivation.  Later, when Delora couldn't stop craving the stuff, she did some research and this is what she found: Iberico pigs roam on grazing lands in Western Spain populated by encina trees (holm oak) and are only allowed to eat acorns.

If you want to know more about Iberico Jamon de Bellota, read this article: Guardian Article

Their meat is high in Omega 3 fatty acids!  It's actually healthy to eat the ham here (and good for Delora's recuperation diet!)  Some marketers people call Iberico pigs "olives on legs", or something cute like that. Plus, they're are massaged with a special oil every night after being given a pint of beer.  Wait, that's Kobe beef. Okay, there's no massaging pigs here, but Delora personally guarantees that if you can ever get your lips on a piece of this stuff, it's worth the ticket to Spain.

Look what my friends have in their Spanish kitchens:
Spanish Status Symbol
(Delora wants one of these badly and imagines that she would cover the hoof with a little American flag bandana.)

And if you're a vegetarian?  Lucky for you, there are a variety of vegetarian ham products available for you!  The entire snack food industry has capitalized on the country's love of ham and has added a line impossible to find in the states: Fritos con jamon, Doritos con jamon, potato chips con jamon...


Tay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tay said...

Perhaps a good start would be to swap the sour cream and onion potato chips for Iberian Pata Negra. At least your triglyceride would plummet (if not the "hernia"). I'm sure Chip will spring for that hamhock-holding contraption if you're extra nice.

Mental P Mama said...

Well, this ol' redneck sure learned something about ham! I cannot wait to have some!

Anonymous said...


It's Tara. Can you please
email me your email address?
I have some info you
may find interesting.
Hope all is well, haven't heard
from you.


Deb in Spain said...

Your email is blocking me, but I'll try again!

Anonymous said...

Tay you are wrong. She has requested not only the holder and the special knife to cut it but also to have it displayed in the house. For once I have had to decline. Why on earth would we do that when we can go in any direction and have knife welding professionals cut more ham than one can eat in a lifetime. I must say it is good. Today lunch was jambon serrano por a mi.

Tay said...

I guess she hasn't been extra nice. . .

Gilman said...

she is always extra nice. She has to be over the moon nice to get the ham leg. We were in a resturant the other night and one of the translated items was Clean pigs foot. I wonder what the alternative was?? Needless to say we ordered steak.

Nathalie said...

Our ham!

Cinco Jotas or Joselito are the two premier brands of pata negra.

Go to Mantequeria Bravo on Calle Ayala (near Mercado de la Paz). They will deliver for you! The next step of ham education is learning to cut it. Still haven't mastered that one...

Nathalie said...

Oh forgot, the Mantequeria Bravo hams come in these cute felt bags with gold lettering, like high-end handbags or shoes.

One time, we were going through the airport hand-luggage security scanner and the distinct x-ray shape of the ham leg showed up in my husband's carrying case. The guard gave him a quizzical look and Marc replied: "Es un Joselito." The guard then looked at his colleague and said: "Es un Joselito! Dejale pasar."

The hardest thing for the American mentality coming to Spain is to get over our fear of fat (especially animal fat). As you pointed out, in Spain, iberico fat is considered to be in a whole different category (Omega 3). No one believes you can get fat from eating this and they feel that you are missing out on the flavor if you don't eat some of the fat with the lean meat.