Emmanuel Tresmontant - 2009-12-15
Over the past few years, European epicureans have developed a veritable passion for the ham made from the meat of Iberian black-trotter hogs (pata negra) fed with acorns (bellota). Nearly all cured meat aficionados are of the same opinion: the world’s finest hams are produced in Jabugo (Andalusia), Extremadure and Guijuelo (in the Salamanca province)…
Perfect when sliced paper-thin and served with aperitifs, they are a well-rounded delicacy, combining a melt-in-your-mouth texture, a hint of fat and fragrances of hazelnut, wild plants, forests and mushrooms.
The Spanish enjoy this deluxe delicatessen meat (not to be confused with Serrano ham, also excellent but far more ordinary) with a very dry wine with iodine tones, such as a Manzanilla, which provides a marked counterpoint to the fatty ham.
For Christmas, however, I would recommend uncorking a bottle of pink Champagne instead; Selosse, Larmendier-Bernier, Drappier and Billecart Salmon are all good choices.
Bellota (ham from acorn-fed hogs) may also be served on slices of toast rubbed with tomato, olive oil and fresh garlic: terrific! Since this is very expensive meat (around € 266 or £ 246 per kilo), avoid buying counterfeit ham by looking for the ‘real iberico’ label at reliable establishments or ordering it on-line.
In Spain, you can purchase extraordinary 100% Iberian ‘unico’ ham from Pedro Hernàndez Martin in Barcelona. In Jabugo, in the Sierra de Huelva, 100 km from Seville, the Osborne family’s Sanchez Romero ham is considered a national treasure.