It was at Antoine Westermann's Buerhiesel in Alsace that we discovered this remarkable ham, in the restaurant where he shares his favorite products with his customers. "Iberian ham is wildly popular in my shop," he says. "It's cut by hand, to order. It's incomparable, unlike anything else. There are very good Parma hams, very good Bayonne hams, but this ham is unquestionably unique. It comes from enormous hogs that can weigh up to 250 kg, and so are very fat. And when you know that the flavor is in the fat, it all becomes clear!"
"It can simply be eaten with the fingers. That's when it's best. When it comes to price, it's a luxury product, a bit expensive, but if I had to choose between foie gras, caviar and this ham, I wouldn't hesitate. I sometimes serve it in the restaurant in the spring with seared duck liver sprinkled with pepper and sea salt; I add some new asparagus and pieces of this ham which tie together all the flavors. Then you just need to sit back, close your eyes and let it melt on your tongue tin order to appreciate all its nutty flavor that reveals itself in your mouth from the very beginning."
There are basically two different types of cured hams in Spain, jamón serrano or “mountain ham,” and jamón ibérico or “Iberian ham.”
Jamón Serrano - There are almost 2,000 producers of Serrano ham in Spain. Eighteen of these producers formed the Consorcio de Jamón Serrano Español in 1990. The name Jamón Serrano is now controlled by the European Union since the year 2000 and it protects the processing of this product, although it does not apply to a specific region. Look for the label that has an "S" in the shape of a ham, and says SERRANO ESPAÑOL if you want to buy Jamón Serrano from the consortium. The mountain or Serrano ham is made from several different breeds of white pigs, such as Duroc, Landrace or Large White. They are fed mainly cereals and cured from 7 to 16 months.
Jamón Ibérico – This ham is made only from the Iberian pig. The breeding of the Iberian pig is restricted to an area in Southwestern Spain and Southeastern Portugal. Although fed some cereals, these pigs also roam countryside and feed on acorns. The curing process lasts from 14 to 36 months.
In collaboration with the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade and Julia Lopez de Sagredo, agricultural engineer
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