Some people call it the 119th element in the Periodic table, others refer to the hundred years of culinary tradition and others again will label it animal welfare with a happy ending. It’s the Iberian Black ham – also called Jamón Ibérico.
The observant reader will have guessed by the Ibérico, that this ham is from the Iberian peninsular – from Portugal and Spain. No other country are allowed to call it Ibérico and the regulations are strict: Only Black Iberian pigs – also called pata negra – may be used for the ham and only pigs that roam free in oak forests and eat acorns during the last part of their lives, get the designation and finest quality label Jamón Ibérico de Bellota.
Pigs are Jamón from the day they are born
But not only breed and feed determines the quality of the ham – the curing is an essential part as well, a process that takes at least twelve months, although some producers cure their Jamones Ibéricos for up to 48 months.
You can compare the ham to wine: you have different elements to determine the outcome: species, environmental influence and post-harvest processing. And like wine, the different hams of Spain have their individual Denominación de Origen, depending on the region.
Maybe you think, like I once did, that all hams taste alike, but I have learned that this is very far from the truth. It’s like with wine: if you have only tried the cheap red from the bottom shelf, no wonder they all taste the same. Not bad but not exceptional either. So, when you try an Amarone or Rioja Gran Reserva for the first time, you will know, you’ve been drinking junk. Trust me, it’s the same with ham.
My revelation occurred at the Jamón Experience in Barcelona – the first multisensory space on the planet focusing on the world of ham. And why not? There’s a Wine House in every wine region. where you can taste the different wines of the area, so the idea of creating a space, that celebrates this true Spanish delicacy is a great idea.
After a thorough introduction to the life of the pigs, the feed and the curing process in the multimedia museum, you can actually savour the delights: Jamón Reserva cured for 12 months, Jamón Ibérico cured for 24 month and the world-class Jamónes Ibérico de Bellota from Huelva, Pedroches, Extremadura and Guijuelo, all cured for 36 months.
The smiling guide will educate you on the different hams during the tasting process, and the hams are washed down with a glass of red or white wine, beer or water, depending on your choosing. Happy, educated and satisfied, we left Jamón Experience for further discoveries in Barcelona. It’s a fun and informative experience for every age, worth its 19€ price tag and a welcome break in a busy Barcelona Tourist schedule.