Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ham of God: Jamon Iberico de Ballota

Jamon Iberico is a Spanish cured ham made from the Iberian Black Pig whose diet consists largely of acorns. A cousin of prosciutto and a sibling of Jamon Serrano, Jamon Iberico is considered their superior and is priced accordingly. Until recently, it wasn't available in the U.S., but over the last year, it's been trickling in.

At the Cheese Store of Silverlake, they have Jamon Iberico de Ballota (the most prized type, made from free range pigs which eat only acorns) for $90 per pound. Expensive? Heck, yeah. Like cheese, though, the good thing about cured meats is that you can almost always afford a little bit. So, for $10 I got four slices.

The Jamon was a darker red color than most cured hams; it was heavily marbled with fat which seemed more translucent than in Prosciutto. Could a piece of ham be worth this much? In this case, I'd have to say yes. The meat was rich and subtle, much less salty than a prosciutto. It had a pure, rich ham taste which I wanted to savor for as long as possible. The fat marbling gave it a melt-in-your mouth effect. Don't just gulp this stuff down; hold it in your mouth like a fine wine, and savor it.

If transcendence can be achieved through a cured ham, then this is the ham that would do it.

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