Skip to comments.World's 'most expensive' ham leg on sale in London
Posted on 01/18/2010 4:54:58 AM PST by Daffynition
"The world's most expensive ham" has gone on sale in London, according to retailer Selfridges.
The leg of Iberico ham, which costs £1,800, went on sale at the food hall in the retailer's flagship store in Oxford Street, central London.
The 7kg (15lb) ham leg comes with its own DNA certificate as proof of authenticity.
Pig farmer and ham expert Manuel Maldonado selected 50 pigs that were reared in Extremadura in western Spain.
The pigs were fed on a diet of acorns and roots to give the ham a distinctive flavour.
After being slaughtered their ham was salted and cured for three years, before going on sale in a hand-made wooden box wrapped in an apron made by a Spanish tailor.
"Connoisseurs will appreciate the melt-in-the-mouth texture of this truly amazing Spanish ham," said Selfridges fresh food Buyer Andrew Cavanna.
(Excerpt) Read more at news.bbc.co.uk ...
The Iberico ham comes with its own DNA certificate
Hey, just like Monica's blue dress!
Guess our president won’t buy it; heard he shouldn’t or couldn’t eat ham.
Are you supposed to eat it, or display it in your living room under a glass case?
An even more expensive ham. Plus, you'd be talking your way out of even more tickets.
Yeah, it sure is weird; pork products are like Krypronite to him, he won't go near them, I dunno why. Maybe it's a clue or somethin'.
Oh, but wait, "Biggest Loser" is on, can't think now, must be entertained at all costs.
No Swine Before Its Time!
I can barely afford bacon, so what do I know?
Pigs are filthy animals. I don't eat filthy animals.
How about a dog? Dogs eats its own feces.
I don't eat dog either.
Yeah, but do you consider a dog to be a filthy animal?
A dog's got personality. Personality goes a long way Marcia.
I'd file this under "It's more trouble than it's worth" category ...like owning a high performance car.
Even if you could afford it, do you have to have a special meat hook hanging from your kitchen ceiling to keep it?
I can just see the dog jumping on the kitchen counter trying to reach it!
Besides, who has a knife in the kitchen drawer sharp enough to slice it as thin as it needs to be cut?
And then, I find that hoof a bit off-putting. Erm ...I mean ...really.
Visitor: "How so?"
Farmer: "A year ago, my house caught on fire at 3 AM, when I was asleep. That pig broke through the front door, ran upstairs, woke my wife and me, and led us so safety."
Visitor: "Wow. Say, I notice the pig has a wooden leg. How come?"
Farmer: "Well, you wouldn't eat a pig like that all at once, would you?"
Slaughtered? Just buy them prosthetic legs. You got a pig that good, you don't want to eat 'em all at once.
The story of Jamón Ibérico ham is steeped in mystery and romance. The ancient oak pastures of Spain, the noble black Ibérico pig, the mountain air which caresses each ham as it magically is transformed into one of the worlds most exquisite foods - all play a part in this uniquely Spanish phenomenon. Without each ingredient the recipe is disturbed. Greatness can only be achieved with patience, skill and adherence to traditional methods.
The origin of the Iberico pig goes back millennia, even to the time of the cavemen who decorated the caves of Spain with their art. These are the original swine of Spain, tamed over the centuries. Only in the last couple of hundred years have the pink pigs of our imagination invaded their territory. The Iberico hog is big, with slender legs and a very long snout. Iberico pigs are black, with very little hair. They have black hooves as well, which is the source of the phrase “pata negra” which describes the black hoof that remains on the ham throughout the curing process and distinguishes it from a Serrano ham. They are also much fatter animals with veins of fat running through the muscle of the pig. This, along with the large amount of fat layering each ham, allows the Iberico hams to be cured much longer, resulting in a much more complex, intense flavor, with a note of sweetness that is unparalleled.
Here we must make a very important point – not all Iberico pigs win the Jamon Iberico lottery and live free in the Spanish countryside. Most Jamon Iberico is made from Iberico pigs who live normal pig lives eating corn and other feed. It is still an excellent ham, benefiting from the noble lineage of the Iberico pig. But for the ultimate ham, you must add 'bellota', or acorns. As an indication of the difference, Jamon Iberico de Bellota can cost twice as much as a normal Iberico ham. So note well the difference between the two main types of Iberico ham: there is Jamon Iberico, and then there is Jamon Iberico de Bellota, or acorn fed.
If they are lucky enough to be destined for Bellota status, the Iberico pigs finish their lives on the Dehesa (more on this later), in small family clans, until their day of “sacrifice” arrives. The favorite pastime of Iberico hogs is rooting around the pastures in the Dehesa, foraging for acorns as well as herbs and grasses. All this running around feasting, especially during the acorn season, does more than make for a well rounded, happy pig. It makes for exquisitely marbled raw material, packed with natural antioxidants – a key ingredient for extended curing of the ham.
The Dehesa and the Acorn
Which brings us to the humble acorn, known as the 'bellota'. Many centuries ago, the rulers of western Spain decreed that each town and village should create pastures studded with oak trees, called the Dehesa, for the long term stability of the region. This forest/pasture continues to serve many purposes. The Holm and cork oaks provided firewood for the people, shade for the plants and livestock, cork products, and acorns (bellota) during fall and winter. During the spring and summer cattle and sheep graze the fields. During the fall and winter, when the acorns are falling from the trees, the pigs are released to fatten up. This ancient human-created ecosystem survives intact to this day.
An aside: with the construction boom in modern Spain there has been pressure on the owners of the Dehesa to convert it into real estate for homes and apartments. The renaissance of the Iberico ham, which began less than thirty years ago, is a major ingredient in preserving this jewel of Spain for future generations.
Iberico pigs love acorns. I mean they really love acorns. Each pig can eat ten kilos of acorns a day. When the pigs destined to be Bellota hams are released onto the Dehesa at the age of about 10 months they weigh in about 200 pounds each. The once svelte young pigs become gleeful plump pigs, gaining up to 2 pounds of fat each day. After 3 to 4 months of the period known as the ‘montanera’ each pig roughly doubles its weight. In the winter, once they have reached a certain weight, their time has arrived for the ‘sacrifice’
(Both male and female pigs participate in the montanera. All are neutered and spayed; the males to protect the quality of their meat, and the females to protect them from the attentions of wild boars from the mountains.)
The Curing Process
The 'matanza', or sacrifice, has traditionally been a family affair. A pig would be slaughtered and the whole family would gather to preserve the meat for the rest of the year. Chorizo, salchichón and morcilla sausages would be made on the spot. Choice cuts would be set aside to be eaten fresh. And the fatty legs would be packed in sea salt and hung to dry in the cool winter air.
This process still continues in some towns as it has for thousands of years. And over the last century, family factories have begun curing these hams in large quantities using the same methods. The hams are left to absorb the salt for a few weeks. Then they are hung in factories that still have open windows to allow the mountain air to circulate around the hams.
Iberico hams cure for two to four years. Iberico hams usually about two years, Iberico Bellota hams for longer periods. This extraordinarily long curing process is possible because of the huge amount of fat on each ham and, in the case of the Bellota hams, the antioxidant quality of their diets. Over the curing period they loose nearly half their weight as the fat drips away.
An incredible transformation occurs as the winter moves to spring and summer. The salted ham starts to sweat. Because of the salt, bacteria cannot take hold, but massive chemical changes occur. The meat becomes dryer, and cools off as the second winter commences. The special aspect of Iberico is that it can go through this cycle two or three times. The result is a build up of complex, volatile molecules in the ham that transform it from a piece of pork into an orchestra of flavors.
With the Bellota hams, the most miraculous transformation is of the fats. Through this period of heating and cooling, salting and drying, the fats are broken down. Because of the antioxidants in the acorns and the unique curing process, the saturated fats are changed into healthy mono-unsaturated fats high in oleic acid. The only fat higher in oleic acid is olive oil.
The ultimate result is long, thin leg of ham with a deep golden hue to its fat. The meat is dark red, marbled with veins of fat. We had an incredible experience in the city of Caceres. There Pedro Lancho, the owner of Encinar de Cabazón, served us a feast fit for a king. The highlight was when the professional waiter at his favorite restaurant brought out plates of his Gran Reserva Jamón Ibérico de Bellota. It was served in paper thin slices on a plate that was warmed to about 75 degrees. At that temperature the fat literally melted onto the plate.
On first bite, the flavor of the ham was incredible. Sweet, nutty, and not too salty. Then the complexity of ham flavors increased. An essential part of the flavor and mouth-feel was the way the fat melted away, releasing flavors that told the story of the noble Iberico swine, of the Dehesa forest pasture, of the years of careful curing, and of the countryside of Spain itself.
Apparently it has been available since the summer of 2007 ...
Until recently, jamón ibérico was not available in the United States (a fact referenced in the movie Perdita Durango, where the ham of Jabugo is praised as “illegal, but delicious”).
Prior to 2005, only pigs raised and slaughtered outside of Spain were allowed to be processed in Spain for export to the United States. In 2005 the first slaughterhouse in Spain, Embutidos y Jamones Fermín, S.L., was approved by the United States Department of Agriculture to produce ibérico ham products for export to the United States.
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