Top Pig: the world’s most expensive ham

 

 

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The world’s most expensive ham went on sale last month.

The upscale UK department store Selfridges is offering the ham for sale in the food hall of their flagship London store. The leg of jamón ibérico de bellota weighs a bit over 15 pounds and is selling for $2,940.

What could possibly justify a price tag of nearly $200 per pound for a ham?

The Spanish speak of their hams with the kind of reverence the French reserve for their wine.

Hams are produced throughout Spain. Nearly every hamlet and mountain village boasts their own version of the jamón serrano, which translates as “mountain country ham.” The best of the hams, jamón ibérico, come from the Black Iberian Pig. The best of these,  jamón ibérico de bellota come from free-ranging pigs that roam the forests of western Spain and in their last months of life eat only bellota (Spanish for acorns) fallen from Mediterranean oaks. Of these pigs, 50 are placed on 10 hectares (about 24 acres) of land for acorn foraging instead of the usual 1 hectare shared between 2 ordinary Iberian pigs. One of these 50 pigs is the source of the Selfridges ham.

Any ham from a Black Iberian pig is pretty special. The breed naturally has lots of fat deposits under the skin and between the muscle fibers. This fairly even distribution of fat interspersed with muscle gives the hams a very buttery and rich flavor. The flavor profile of the jamón ibérico de bellota is further enriched by the sweetness of the acorns, and their high oil content gives the hams a melt-in-the-mouth texture. The salting, drying, and curing process can take another 3 years in the hands of a skilled ham master, and greatly influences taste and texture of the final product.

 

The leg may seem to have a large price tag but when you think about the amount of care taken from breeding right through to the curing, it is actually amazing value.

 

Andrew Cavanna, Fresh Food Buyer at Selfridges

It takes rare breeding, indulgent rearing, and a lengthy, exacting aging process to produce jamón ibérico de bellota. But $2,940? At that price I’ll fly to Spain and get my own jamón ibérico. And no flamenco CDs or bullfighting posters for me;  I’ll be returning with ham- it’s the single greatest souvenir a returning Spain-traveler can bestow on their loved ones.

Until 2007, jamón ibérico was banned from import into the U.S.

Two of the better sources for Spanish hams are the online retailer La Tienda and the classic Philadelphia food sellers DiBruno Bros.

Notes from Spain gives an expatriate’s view of the food and drink of Spain.

Jamon.com offers recipes, wine pairings, and other tips for serving Spanish hams.

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3 Responses to Top Pig: the world’s most expensive ham

  1. Pingback: In the Market for Baby Body Parts? Here’s How Much They Cost. » Sons of Liberty Media

  2. Janice says:

    They need to give me some free samples =)

  3. I like ham, but that may just be a little to rich for my blood…very interesting!

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