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Our Quest For Jamón Ibérico

Like the Beluga caviar or Kobe beef, Jamón Ibérico is the ultimate of its kind. Not so long ago, it was unavailable in the U.S.A. Our family, who founded Jamon.com and La Tienda , has been on a quest for the finest of all hams, Jamón Ibérico, since we started our business in 1996.

The first producer, Embutidos y Jamónes Fermín, is now fully approved by the U.S. Government to export Ibérico to the United States. The small family company delivered their first shipment of Ibérico embutidos (chorizo and salchichón sausages; lomo - cured loin) in July 2006. Jamones Ibérico (Ibérico hams) arrived in 2007 and the premiere Jamón Ibérico Bellota acorn finished hams followed in 2008. Other producers have followed, and we are thrilled to now offer these great hams for you to enjoy.

THE QUEST FOR JAMON IBERICO

The lineage of the unique Ibérico pigs, which produce the hams stretches back to pre-history when they ran wild in the Iberian Peninsula – are the pride of Spain. Columbus included some of them on his flagship Santa María when he set out to discover the New World.

There are two types of ham from these black-hoofed Ibérico pigs – Jamón Ibérico comes from animals that live the life of a normal pig. The other, Jamón Ibérico Bellota, comes from privileged pigs -- free-range hogs who gorge themselves on acorns (bellotas) and wild plants which grow on the forested meadow called the dehesa. The only difference between the two is their diet and exercise, but those things make all the difference in the world. (Sound familiar?)

The rare Jamón Ibérico de Bellota hams are infused with the flavor of their favorite food, the acorn (bellota) from a cork tree (such as what Ferdinand the Bull lounged under) or the holm oak. The paper-thin slices, glistening with healthy mono-unsaturated fat, provide a rich nutty flavor and tender texture.

Spaniards consume the vast majority of these hams in their own country. Some producers have waiting lists for several years for their best products. They cannot produce enough hams to meet the demand from Spain, France, Japan and now America and China.

These rare black-hoofed descendants of native Iberian wild boar typically each have over five acres in which to forage and roam. They live for about two years in this porcine paradise -- many times the lifespan of a normal domestic pig.

From the moment they are born, the special black Ibérico hogs that are destined for Bellota quality are treated as if they are royalty.  For special periods after their birth, until their sacrifice (as the Spaniards term it), they live, sleep and forage under the open sky in specially preserved oak forests, called "la dehesa".

In the bulking up stage each fall, when the gain over two pounds of weight each day, these favored pigs feast on 15 to 20 pounds of acorns or 'bellotas' per day. But they are not what we might term “couch potatoes”! The exercise they enjoy as they forage in a free-range atmosphere makes the hams better than ever.

Finally, the hams are sacrificed, salted and hung up to cure from two to four years. During this carefully monitored period when they are hanging in the mountain air, the hams lose 20% to 40% of their weight. Remarkably, the curing process converts much of the remaining fat of the ham into a beneficial good-cholesterol mono unsaturated fat, much like extra virgin olive oil. But this process only occurs in the hams made from acorn fed pigs - producing Bellota hams.

ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS

What is Pata Negra?

Pata Negra is the informal term for the famous 'black hoofed' ham, produced from a venerable strain of Ibérico hog, native only to Spain. Jamón Ibérico is the formal name — it is the same thing.

The supreme expression of this coveted ham is called Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, referring to those animals who spend their final days feasting on rich, mono-unsaturated acorns. Some people also call it 'Jabugo' ham after a famous Spanish ham town. All of the Ibérico hams sold by Jamon.com and La Tienda are certified as "pata negra" (black hoof) Jamón Ibérico, born, raised and cured in Spain. Cerdos de la raza, so to speak!!

Where are the hams cured?Jamon Iberico Whole Piece

The curing occurs in strictly controlled, USDA approved facilities in Spain. Each ham is individually numbered and will come with certification attesting to its authenticity as an authentic Ibérico ham.

Do the bone-in hams have hoofs?

Unfortunately, due to USDA restrictions, Ibérico hams in the U.S. are sold without their hooves.

Are boneless hams available?

Yes, both boneless and bone-in hams are available. The boneless hams average about 8-9 pounds, and the traditional bone-in hams are in the neighborhood of 15 pounds.

How do you store and use these hams?

Bone-in hams should be removed from their wrapping and stored in a special ham holder.  This holder positions the ham securely, ready to be sliced.  They can be stored for several weeks as you use the ham, and should be sliced quite often to keep them fresh.  See our reference section for slicing instructions.  Boneless hams should be kept refrigerated and sliced by hand or with a meat slicer.