Traditionally the process of slaughtering the pig has been a family affair and would be an important event of preserving the meat for the rest of the year. Many of the other specialties of chorizo, salchichon and sausages would have been made at this moment of the sacrifice. As well as other fresh cuts of meat would have been enjoyed. Legs would be carefully cured and hung in the cool mountain air. After thousands of years these traditional methods are still done in the small towns in the mountains of western Spain.
The Mountain Air (La Sierra)
We now find family run farms that produce these special hams in larger qualities. Done in bigger spaces now, these hams are hung to cure for months with the mountain air blowing through open aired spaces. Depending on the cut or type of ham they are left to cure from a couple of months to several years to develop a complex and incredible flavour.
The Important Fat
With most fat, comes great flavour and there is no shortage of this fat on each salted leg of Jamon Iberico. The fats found in each leg are healthy mono-unsaturated fats which are high in oleic acid. When the legs are hung to cure in the open air rooms the fat drips down and away. The legs will eventually lose almost half their weight through this process. During the warmer spring and summer months the salted hams begin to sweat and because of the salt a chemical change occurs. The result of this fat melting through these changing temperatures after two years is absolutely extraordinary. The ham develops a rich, buttery and nutty flavour unparallel to anything else. Not only is this ham delicious but holds the same healthy fats and antioxidants as an olive oil.
The quality, breed, time and attention are all important aspects in creating the end result of the ham. The ruby red dark meat is beautifully marbled with veins of glistening fat. Jamon Iberico is best served at room temperature and sliced very thinly. The texture of the ham is essential as it allows the meat to melt the sweet, nutty and complex flavours on to your palate. The ham is never too salty and with each bite you will appreciate the uniqueness and essence of the terroir captured from the countryside of Spain.