I’ve just returned from a magical trip to La Alberca in Spain, a medieval town where pork is honored with the Fiesta de San Antón and it was the first Historic-Artistic Monument in Spain more than 75 years ago. It is a corner of peace in Salamanca, three hours from Madrid and where only about 1,200 people live. There, among its inhabitants, are my beloved Iberian pigs that we see transformed into the famous Iberian ham.
If ham is called iberico, it’s one thing, but if it’s acorn-fed, it’s the real deal.
You’ll be surprised to know about acorn-fed Iberian ham:
- This ham is low in calories and is rich in protein, vitamins and minerals, especially Omega 3, 6 and 9.
- Iberian pork helps reduce “bad” cholesterol and increases “good” cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, promotes circulation and protects the heart.
- In addition to the leg, you will find tenderloin, sausage, blood sausage and even fresh cuts of Iberian or Iberian acorn. The family of the Fermín brand sells it online.
- There are many imitations, look for seals of guarantee and provenance.
- This ham is not put in a refrigerator. It’s ideal temperature is 70 F (21C).
- In the case of ham, the more years of healing, the better the quality and the experience in the mouth. The label always indicates if it is 3 or 4 years old.
- Since there are several categories, read either the menu or the package, before paying the bill.
I’ll tell you the difference…
During the months of November and March, the acorn-fed Iberian pigs move to live in fields called dehesa. That’s where the trees are planted that produce the famous “acorns” and it is the food with that fruit, which makes them so special.
Recently, the council that regulates the quality of Iberian pigs designed a new label system that helps us select them. Always taking into account that we are talking about Iberian pigs and not traditional Serrano ham.
The black label, also known as Pata Negra, is 100% Iberian acorn ham, which was fed on acorns and other natural resources of the field. This will always be the best taste, quality and highest price. The color, aroma and flavor is pronounced, but so soft that it almost melts in your mouth.
The red label is 75% Iberian, fed on acorns and other natural resources.
Those of green and white label, are hams known by the name of bait 100%, 75% or 50% of Iberian race, fed with cereals, leguminous and grass of the field or cereals and legumes, respectively.
Ham is to taste with a good tinted wine, but to enjoy it you have to know it. It’s history, tradition and complexity of production make it a unique product.
Doreen Colondres is a celebrity chef. Author of the book The Kitchen Doesn’t Bite. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram @DoreenColondres and visit www.LaCocinaNoMuerde.com, www.TheKitchenDoesntBite.com