Where: Throughout Spain, the best quality from Jabugo and the Sierra Morena forests
History: Traditionally made by mountain people and the pig’s slaughter is a cause for much celebration.
Dishes: Olives, crisps, salsas, cheese pastries and even bull’s testicles!
Serving Suggestion: Eat waver thin slices unaccompanied, at room temperature
Jamón is a Spanish national treasure. The hind leg of a white pig is dried, salted and cured in carefully determined conditions to produce a meat which is regarded throughout the world as a nutritious delicacy.
Origins and History
Jamón serrano is mountain ham. Since time immemorial it has been produced by mountain dwelling folk, high up where the conditions are perfect for the lengthy preparation process: clean air, correct moisture levels and cold winters.
Even better quality than jamón serrano is jamón ibericó, which comes from black Iberian pigs. Ibericó ham from Jabugo is widely regarded as the very best jamón: the free-range pigs are bred in the Sierra Morena oak forests and are never fed anything but acorns.
Although jamón production is becoming increasingly industrialised, in rural areas the start of the slaughter season is still marked by a matanza gatherings. Several pigs are slaughtered throughout the day, accompanied by much drinking and merriment. The leg of the pig is cured in sea salt for a few days, then cleaned and hung up to mature, sometimes from as long as two years. In traditional pig-keeping families the animals are kept in the basement of the house, and the attic is reserved for maturing hams.
Thinly sliced, bite-sized pieces of jamón can be served as a delicious starter or snack. It should be stored and served at room temperature, and as exposure to the air dissipates the aromas in the meat, it’s a good idea to slice it a little in advance. The unique flavour of jamón adds a special touch to a variety of different dishes, such as soups and salads. Fried in olive oil , it’s delicious with vegetables, eggs or even pasta dishes.
The unmistakable delicate flavour of jamón is a direct consequence of its high fat content, but the meat also contains valuable proteins, B vitamins and several trace elements.
Hog Wild! A Delectable Collection of over 100 Delicious Pork Recipes & Delightful Pig Love by K.C. McKeown
Lonely Planet World Food: Spain by Richard Sterling, Allison Jones
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