Listen, I am a massive fan of jamon de bellota. No question asked, they are by far the best out there. People might ask but what about Parma ham, yes it is good but honestly nowhere near its Spanish counterpart. For the Italians reading me, my brother likes it better.
To be considered jamon iberico, the ham should be made out of black Iberian pigs or cross-bred pig as long as they are 50% iberico. In Spain, the pigs are found in the province of Salamanca, Ciuadad Real and, Sevilla Huelva. Those coming from the towns of Guijuelo and Jabugo have their own label of origin and are the most prized ones. our types of ham currently exist based according to the Spanish Government but my favorite goes to to Jamon de bellota 100% iberico but won’t say no to any other kind of jamon.
Jamon de Bellota 100% iberico is the purest form of ham as they descend from a 100% Iberico mother and father and comprises less than 5% of the Iberian pig livestock. Crossbred Iberian pig comes from an Iberian mother and European father and do differs in terms of aromas and flavors.
Being a pure or cross breed is not enough. The pigs must a free range pig roaming oak forest along the border of Spain and Portugal mostly eating acorns all day long to give this particular flavor that can only be found with this type. The pigs travel up to 14 km daily to find acorns their main food responsible for their flavor. Their daily walk helps the pork fat infiltrate their muscles creating this beautiful marble texture.
The ham is then cured and dried for 36 months minimum with just the right amount of salt to preserve the quality of the ham. In addition, you need to find the right balance of temperature and moisture during the drying phase.
Let’s put in another way, making ham is like making a good wine. Tons of attention is required over months and years to ensure the quality of the product. This process is not easy and takes years to master but the result is stunning as is the price.
The carving process is also very strict and needs to follow rules to get the best out of it.
Jamon de Bellota 100% iberico is, in my humble opinion, the most exquisite ham available with a unique nutty and silky flavor, beautiful marbling and golden brown texture. The craft involved towards making this amazing products also reflect its hefty price tag.
For those not able to jet off to Spain, Bellota ham from Cinco Jotas, one of the best ham producer from Jabugo, is available at any Citysuper in Hong Kong. For a cheaper option, try out the lomo.