Thursday, May 28, 2009


Yesterday was kind of a sucky day. I'm not really sure what it was, but I was on the verge of tears all afternoon. I did what any rational human being with a deadline in 10 days for a project that's not going well would do: I went home early. I used the time well: I went to buy groceries. Balancing everything in my arms, I checked the mail. What's this?

It's from Spain. Why, it's my ham, of course!

A few weeks ago, I entered an omelet contest. Núria from Spanish Recipes held a contest on eggs. I entered my Weekend Fritatta. When I saw this post, I knew I had to enter. I'm a huge fan of the fritatta on the weekend, and I think that Jamon Iberico, the prize, is really what tipped me over the edge to being a foodie.

Let me explain. I convinced a dear friend to visit another dear friend in Barcelona with me. The 2 of them had never met before. I coaxed the one with promises of good sandwiches. The city has so much to offer other than sandwiches, this is just the first thing I thought of. Well, as it would turn out, we didn't really find mind-blowing sandwiches until we got to the airport. After a huge line in check-in, we ran downstairs to our gate, passing by the Pans & Co. (a chain of sandwich shops) along the way. There was a small bar at the gate, as well as the bus, waiting for us, to take us to the plane. Well, I didn't know when I'd be back in Barcelona, so here goes, I'm willing to risk my return flight for a ham sandwich. I anxiously waited my turn to buy the sandwiches - the bartender must have thought that I really needed to pee! He wrapped them up, I grabbed my bag & we ran to the bus. (The bus then continued to wait for other people, so I ran out & got some coke from the vending machine... if I had only known...)

The sandwiches were amazing & we were both happy. But I somehow knew that it wasn't as convincing as it could have been. So, when Christmas rolled around, I bought the friend an entire leg of ham, complete with a ham holder & a knife. I also planned a Christmas brunch of tapas with a Latin American friend and we made patatas bravas. It was good, we ate, drank, were merry. The ham was the centerpiece on the table for a few months, entertaining all kinds of guests with it's appearance & it's taste. A few months ago, I ordered a new ham. Again, a jamon iberico.

You may have had Spanish ham already. You may be familiar with the term Jamon Serrano. Serrano is OK - I think it's better, more flavourful than Parma ham, but that's just personal preference. Jamon Iberico, on the other hand, is better than Jamon Serrrano. There are a few reasons for this:
  1. Jamon Iberico is from a certain kind of pig (an Iberian pig!) and can be identified by it's black foot. It is also called "Pata Negra" - black foot. Jamon Iberico must come from pigs that are 75% Pata Negra
  2. There are different grades of jamon iberico but the best quality is the Extra Belotta, which means, extra acorns. The pigs double their body weight in the last few months of their lives as the forage acorns in the forest
  3. Because the ham is from pigs that have gotten fat on acorns, the fat is mainly oleic acid, which lowers bad cholesterol & increases good cholesterol
  4. Jamon Iberico is cured much longer than Jamon Serrano. Serrano is cured for 8-10 months, Jamon Iberico for 12 - 36 months
This is what awaited me in the package from Núria:

I love the postcard of Barcelona! Reminded me of being in the park last summer! The postcard had instructions on how to eat the ham (at room temperature) and if I am not going to eat it right away, I should store it in the fridge.

The thing that excited me most about the thinly, professionally sliced ham however, was the sight of the white crystals, highlighted in this photo:

These are thyroxine, small white crystals that you get in aged meats & cheeses. I refer to them as flavour crystals, because, even though they are tasteless, they are indicators of products that have been well aged. They are perfectly safe to eat.

A while ago, I posted about the leg of ham on my kitchen table. I have ham. I do not need more ham. But, I know of many people who are not able to come to my apartment to eat my ham. It is these people who will be eating my package of ham , and I am looking forward to sharing this wonderful product with them. Thanks again, Núria!


Núria said...

Wow! YOu are an expert!!! I'm amazed to see how much you know about our hams :D :D.

I'm happy to see that the package turned your day into a happy one :D. I hope that you enjoy it with family and friends. Thanks so much for the mention and for your kind words!!!

And next time you visit Barcelona, send me an email, I would love to share some tapas with you ;D

Cathy said...

I will not buy any aged meat unless the crystals are there! Sorry you were on the verge of meltdown yesterday - that'll be me by Monday! GM, bankruptcy, work projects and a 4 hour final exam at school in under 2 weeks....and a lack of sleep. And I'll at some point find myself at the mall - wandering around looking at shoes to distract myself :)

taste traveller said...

Thanks for the invite, Núria! It sounds very good. Of course, if you are ever here, we can meet for some German beer! :-)

Cathy: I really feel for you. I hope things somehow get better for you at work. As for school - I know that you'll ace that! Treat yourself to a pair of shoes, or make an appointment at the spa for the day after the exam. It's about the little things in life... :-)

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