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Iberico Ham

By Perla Reséndiz |

Iberico ham is one of the most renowned and coveted products from Spain. Learn about its varieties and discover the art of being a ham cutter.

THE BEST PRODUCTS IN SPANISH GASTRONOMY

When we think about Spain we imagine its magnificent historical architecture coexisting with modern buildings; and we also think about its history and its worldly known traditions. However, when we think about its cuisine, we always remember its delightful and unequalled Iberico ham, the jewel of Spanish gastronomy.

After interviewing Miriam López, a specialist in Ham and CEO of Jamón LoversDINKtravelers has truly enjoyed learning about the world of Iberico ham, a staple product in Spain that has become internationally renowned.

THE IBERICO PIG

Enjoy like an expert. Take into account that there are 9 varieties of Iberico ham. Each of them differs in the percentage of Iberico quality the pig has and the type of breeding it had during the last phase of fattening. Therefore, the black Iberian pig (the one where 100% Iberian acorn cured ham comes from) produces top-quality Iberico ham. It’s the 100% Iberico pig, which, during the last fattening phase, grazes freely and is fed with acorn and natural grass in the Spanish meadows, an ecological and unique ecosystem found in the Iberian Peninsula. Later, after a long curating and elaboration process, the ham is hung in stores, restaurants, supermarkets and homes, thus becoming an essential element of Spanish daily life, gastronomy, its commercial landscape and its culture.

THE ART OF HAM CUTTING

In Spain, cutting ham implies that the cutter has certain specialized knowledge about this product. He or she must be able to identify the type of pig the ham comes from, how it was fed, its breeding regime, how it was cured, its parts, bones and labeling, among other details. Also, he must know and master diverse cutting techniques that range from cleaning the ham to serving it.

The cutter must enrich this culinary jewel through his technique and he must give it the importance it deserves. He must master the use of knives, pliers and the ham support, all of them necessary to slice a ham by hand.

Watching a professional cut ham is a show that enthuses the senses.

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP OF HAM CUTTERS

Despite not being officially recognized as a profession, cutting ham has gained great importance in the Spanish society where it is actually considered a professional activity.

There are even competitions among pro cutters. Among these contests, the most important one is the National Finals where the National Champion Cutting Ham is named.

In these competitions, 6 to 8 ham cutters participate in a contest that lasts 1.5 to 2.5 hours, and they’re observed by a jury who may or may not be formed exclusively by professional cutters. This jury assesses their cutting skills, as well as the cleanliness and elegance with which they work, the thickness of each ham slice and its presentation on a plate, among other elements.

LEARN HOW TO CUT HAM

If you want to take part in this marvelous experience, consider that there are workshops for traveling foodies like you. There you can learn about ham and how to cut ham. Also, there are advanced and more technical contests in which you can also participate. On the other hand, if you want to taste Iberico ham, visit the many bars and restaurants where they serve this specialty product. In some of the finest restaurants you’ll even get the chance of watching a ham cutter in action, something that, without doubt, will enrich your gastronomical experience during your trip to Spain. In that sense, you’ll also delight in freshly cut ham slices. Pair them with a cava sec or a glass of manzanilla (sherry).

PROTECTED DENOMINATION OF ORIGIN OF IBERICO HAM

Finally, if you like adventure, visit the towns that produce pure Iberian bellota ham with Denomination of Origin. Plan your trip to Jabugo (Huelva), Los Pedroches (Cordoba), Extremadura, or Guijuelo (Salamanca). Andalusia and Extremadura are the regions with the largest extensions of meadows. In each of these places you’ll get the chance to visit a drying place or wander along the grasslands.

Whatever your choice is, be sure that you’ll enjoy a unique, tasty and unforgettable experience that will make your mouth water!