Ahhh jamon, what else can I say apart from I love you.
There is something magical about this king of piggy goodness and until I delved deep into the region where jamon is produced, I really has no idea what it was.
So much love is dedicated to every stage of the life of jamon. I say life because this is a process that takes years until it is ready to be enjoyed and every stage is a labor of love.
Firstly the dehesa or the land where these special black pigs roam free to develop there unique flavour is a thing of beauty. Man made forests of oak trees which produce the acorns the pigs feed on to give there fat and flesh a unique nutty flavour. The environment these pigs live in for the three years before they are ready to be processed is an environment of absolute happiness and stress free living.
Then once the deed has been done and the meat is ready to be cured it is onto the curing plant. I was gob smacked when I was told that the location of the plant was chosen because it over looked the dehesa and when the curing room windows were opened, the sweet floral air that swept the hills of the dehesa filled the room where the jamon was hanging and it imparted its flavour intro the jamon. Now that is love!
Finally to the way the jamon is cut and eaten. Thinly sliced by hand, to use a machine is disrespecting the life of the pig and the years of curing it has undergone to make it to the plate. The fast spinning blades of a meat slicer changes the fat of the jamon and creates a bad taste. Of course, when eating jamon you don’t devour it like a tray of bacon after a big night out, you slowly, elegantly and respectfully savour every slice and make sure you enjoy all the levels of sweetness and flavour in every slice.
Jamon is by far my most loved ingredient in the world. It is perfect just as it is and I can’t wait to return to Spain to sit in a tapas bar, sip fino sherry and eat hand cut jamon iberico de bellota. Heaven.
– Shane Delia