For those of you pork-eaters in the US who have never tried made-in-Spain Jamon (ham) Ibérico, now that you can avail of it in again locally, jump on the opportunity because you don’t know what you have been missing.
Although produced in the US since 2005, it’s import from Spain had been prohibited by the USDA because Spain’s slaughter houses did not adhere to it’s safety regulations, and presumably because of the pig-borne viral swine virus that was prominent in Europe years ago. Last week, the ban was lifted and now authentic Ibérico can be bought in the US at a cost of US$50-$100 a pound, depending on the type.
This ham is the Spanish delicacy I can’t get enough of. A general fan of sausages, cold ham and bacon, since I have been introduced to cured Spanish ham, it has happily replaced my desire for any other pork production. I will eat it anytime, anyhow, anywhere — sometimes even preferring it to dessert (*gasp*). I am a regular customer at Madrid’s Ham Museums where you can nip in for a cold beer and a plate of ham that fits your budget.
Jamon Ibérico is made from the Iberian pig that is bred in Southwestern Spain and Southeastern Portugal, for a period of 14-36 months. Good ham in general is also called “Jamon de Pata Negra” (ham of the pig with black feet), the most expensive is the acorn fed Jamon de Bellota that in Spain costs atleast US$720 for an entire leg.
Yes, extremely expensive, so most of the time I have to resort to a ham of lesser quality and appreciate its remote similarity to Jamon Ibérico, but now and again it is something I generously pay for.
I would say eating ham in Spain is like eating noodles in China, households rarely go without it. Also, eating and gifting high-quality ham is a sign of status in Spain; for Christmas (for example), it is not uncommon for the Spanish to gift each other legs of ham.
Knowing how to buy ham and then how to cut it is an art in itself that I am still clueless about, but am determined to understand at some point very soon.