|Jamon Iberico. Source: Renee Suen.|
1. Jamón ibérico de cebo, or jamón ibérico: This ham is made from pigs with a diet consisting of only grains. This ham is cured for about 2 years.
2. Jamón ibérico de recebo: This one is made of pigs with a diet consisting of both acorns and grains. This ham is cured for about 2 years.
SURPRISE FUN FACT: The process of heating, cooling, salting, and drying the Jamón ibérico de bellota breaks down the pigs' fat. Due to the pigs' acorn diet, the meat is filled with antioxidants. Thus, the saturated fats are transformed into healthy mono-saturated fats, which are high in oleic acid. This causes Jamón ibérico de bellota to be high in HDL, or good cholesterol, and is helpful in preventing heart disease. BOOM. SCIENCE.
|Spanish Black Pig. Source: Steve Slater|
The ibérico pig is large with thin legs and a long nose. They have characteristic black hooves that signify its authenticity. Ibérico ham is also known as "pata negra", meaning "black leg", for this reason. Since ibérico pigs are much fatter than other pigs, they have much nicer marbling and take longer to cure. As a result, the ham has a tasty and sweet, yet complex flavor.
3. Jamón ibérico de bellota: This is the ham of all hams. This ham is made from free-range pigs that are set free during the fall and winter seasons when the oak trees in the pastures and forests drop acorns. These pigs will naturally eat only acorns. The acorn diet and the added exercise contribute to the beautifully marbled meat and intense flavor. Usually, these hams are cured for about 3 years. Jamón ibérico de bellota can cost up to $100 per pound, which is almost double the price of normal ibérico ham (usually priced at $52 per pound).
|Source: Justus Hayes.|
The Curing Process: Once the hams are "sacrificed" and salted, they are cured in drying chambers for at least two years. Over time, the fat will melt away and turn into mono-saturated fats. The pig is so well-dieted and marbled that the curing process brings out all the flavors of the meat.