The hams and sausages in Spain were overwhelming. Never have I been confronted with so much cured pig that I felt simultaneously elated and intimidated. I was sad that I didnâ€™t have a month or two to taste perhaps 80-100 different items. I would have died from salt overload if I did â€“ and my remains probably could have been sold as a cured meat. I am so envious. I did not get my fill. I still dream about all of the spectacular preserved meats and sausages that I saw, photographed and salivated over for days while in Barcelona. I got to taste several kinds of hams but nowhere near as many as I would have liked. We were continuing onto Italy as well so I didnâ€™t get to bring any jamon home despite the vacuum packed legs that ranged from euro100 to Euro 500 for the finest jamons. Imagine a ham that costs about PHP30,000 for one shriveled up and salted leg?
What were they like? Brilliant. They were salty, flavorful, deep to deeper reds and burgundy in hue, fatty, delicious and memorable. You only need a few grams, a taste, or two or three. I used to like prosciutto and actually still do, but the Spanish hams have stolen my heart and taste buds. These are really something memorable and unique. What I would do for a week or two with a jamon expert who could take me through the different jamons. By region, by style, by pig or boar, by length of cure, amount and type of salt, by mountain or plain air, in caves, cellars or massive curing rooms. There is much written about the jamons of Spain and I think this article in the Washington Post says a lot of it better than I could ever write.
I have written about Spanish hams before. First there was the incredible Jamon Iberico that some Spanish diplomats and friends had sent over as a present. We had had a wonderful dinner at their home once and they put out a platter of delicious Jamon Iberico that I must have practically drooled over, hence the gift a few weeks later when a fresh supply from Spain arrived. Then I wrote about a wonderful Jamon Serrano, an entire leg that was sent over for my birthday by generous friends and gourmands and which could easily have fed 50-70 people if my arm would hold up trying to slice it thinly enoughâ€¦ On this recent trip we tried the much ballyhooed Jamon Jabugo, a ham made from black hoofed pigs that eat only acorns and are cured with sea salt in the area of Jabugo (as opposed to the generalized Iberico nomenclature)…they were good to brilliant tasting and wickedly, wickedly expensive. Up to Euro 200 per kilo if already sliced up…
There were so many vendors and shops throughout Barcelona that sitting at one and ordering a few slices of perhaps 3-4 different hams was about the limit of a humanâ€™s salt intake. At any rate, I am honored to have had several kinds of jamons but hungry to go back for more. I have no idea why these hams wouldnâ€™t be allowed into the U.S. by the Department of Agricultureâ€¦perhaps they are just jealous they have nothing good enough to compare it to. Really, now, if the entire European community can eat these without any apparent outbreaks of Jamonitis, it should be fine for Americans to consume. Actually, I am actually happy it isnâ€™t exported to the U.S., since that leaves more for the rest of the world. I know I have one avid reader, fried neurons, who is chomping at the bit to try some Jamon Iberico, and all I can say isâ€¦book a flight to Spain, itâ€™s really worth it!