Monday, November 15, 2010

Iberico Ham: The New Pig On The Block

Today was a perfect rainy day in Vancouver to drop by Cafe Barcelona to taste a variety of hams with Antonio Padilla and his wife of Iberico Spain featuring the products of Embutidos Y Jamones Fermin.  Antonio is the BC distributor of  Iberian ham products. Iberian Bellota has only been available in Western Canada for the last year. If you were lucky you’d find it on the charcuterie plates at Salt, Judas Goat, and les amis du Fromage; hopefully that will change sooner rather than later for Vancouver foodies. It is still easier to find Kobe beef or Iranian caviar here than this exquisite Spanish meat.

Antonio Padilla of Iberico Spain
 A small group of restaurateurs and media gathered to taste four Iberico products from Antonio’s portfolio with a glass of accompanying Vina Albali. Antonio offered samples of his Salchichon Iberico sausage – a slicing sausage reminiscent of salami in appearance seasoned with salt and pepper and a with a silky melt in the mouth texture and subtle sweetness. The Chorizo Iberico Extra, minced loin and fat with pimento and garlic, was mildly spicy with sweet nutty undertones and a smooth texture. The Lomo Iberico de Bellota, an air-cured loin marinated with salt and pimento, was very lean, rich and with a subtle smoky nutty taste; while the Iberico Bellota was a stunner with its melt in your mouth texture, savoury yet sweet flavour and lingering mid palate to finish nuttiness. Expensive but  a little goes along way.
So what makes this ham so special? Regular Iberian ham is aged a minimum of two years much longer than most ham we purchase at supermarkets or deli's. The Iberico Bellota is aged a minimum of 24 to 36 months,  sometimes over four years, and has its provenance in its production. These hams are produced from free range Pata Negra (black hoof) pigs that feast on tree fallen acorns, gorging on up to ten kilo's per day until they double in weight before off to the slaughter. The curing process takes a minimum of two years during which time the  antioxidant quality of the acorns changes saturated fat into mono-unsaturated fats  with higher levels of oleic acid than olive oil. So eat more Spanish ham, wine, and olive oil!

 If at home or the restaurant; some Iberian ham and drink pairings I would recommend are the Estrella Damm inedit, a Spanish beer,  with Salchichon Iberico sausage - a nice balance of wheat--lager beer that balances the sweetness of the sausage. A good quality Cava  will partner well with the Chorizo Iberico  Extra   balancing out the fattiness and nutty flavours.  Lomo Iberico de Bellota will pair exquisitey with a well crafted Cidra (dry cider) or with a selecton of cheeses try a Gran Reserva Rioja to complement the smokey/nutty notes with the aged flavours of the wine. The Iberico Bellota is a must with another Spanish superstar - Sherry;  try a fresh dry Fino with the montagna y mer "mountain  and sea combination" of saltiness, sweetness, and complexity. How fitting the noblest ham in the world is with Sherry - a classic combination that must be tried.


  1. Where can I buy this ham in Vancouver?
    I had it at Bellota Bellota in Paris years ago, oh my... the ham is sublime!

  2. It is available on tasting menus at Salt and Le Petite Chavignol. I have also seen it for sale at Bosa Foods in Vancouver