Speaking Jose…

Food from the Heavens – Jamon Pata Negra (Spanish Cured Ham)
August 14, 2008, 3:29 am
Filed under: Food | Tags: , , ,
Jamon Serrano de Bellota before I cut into it.

Jamon Serrano de Bellota before I cut into it.

My family has it’s roots in Spain, mainly the norther regions of Asturias and Galicia, and I’ve come to love Spanish food as a result. My favorites of all are Manchego Cheese and Jamon Serrano, which both make a great snack thats full of flavor. Although Manchego Cheese is easier to find these days in most grocery stores, Jamon Serrano is more hit-or-miss, which led Kristen to find a great substitute, Figs! The highest quality of ham (called by some the Kobe Beef of Spanish cured hams) is the Jamon Serrano de Bellota Pata Negra. Bellota identifies that the pig had a diet of acorns, which gives it a richer flavor than regular Jamon Serrano, and the Pata Negra name comes from the black hoof.  They are rare and usually command a high price because of it.

So how did I end up with a prized leg of Jamon Serrano de Bellota Pata Negra? Well, as Paul Harvey would say, is the rest of the story.  You see, until recently (July 2008), it was illegal for Spanish companies to export Jamon Serrano to the US. Back in 2001, though, some companies had offered to take orders for hams from Americans, with an eye to shipping the hams to them once the ban was cleared.  My father had placed an order for a number of hams, hoping to share this treat with the rest of my family. A few years later my father passed away after his fight with cancer, and he never mentioned the hams. Turn the clock to a couple of months ago, where my mother found the order forms while clearing out some paperwork. A few phone calls later and the ham order was confirmed, and after a short stop in Philadelphia at my brother’s place, here it is! 

In the time since I took the picture, I have cut into the ham and it is delicious! For right now I am either cutting a couple of pieces off as a snack when I get home from work or taking some pieces to lunch, along with some slices of Manchego and some baguette type bread. Although it is an amazing treat, it has led me to be a little melancholy, both because it makes me miss Spain and because it was such a nice gesture from Dad that he never got to share with us.


4 Comments so far
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Nice story. Ordering ham years in advance were the type of things your dad and grandmother did all the time . I hope your family is well.
Ps- If there is any ham left send some to AZ 🙂

Comment by Adriana

[…] Receiving a Jamon Serrano that was originally ordered by my Dad […]

Pingback by What I’m Thankful For This Thanksgiving « Speaking Jose…

I have heard so much about serrano ham and would like to try it or maybe a cheaper but close american ham. Do you know of a ham that would taste close to serrano but not cost as much? Thanks! Dave

Comment by David

Thanks for your comment, you ask a tough question because serrano (especially the pata negra variety) has a very distinct taste and texture. Prosciutto (an italian cured ham) comes close on taste, but the meat is normally not as firm as serrano. For a domestic ham, try a Virginia Ham, they are brined and cured so that they have some of the taste of the serrano and the texture is closer to a serrano. See this link for more details: Google Answers . As to a preferred method to have the ham, I usually like to eat serrano in small strips with a good, firm cheese (manchego for example). I have seen some people incorporate them in their omelette, as a pizza topping or even a sandwich. Enjoy and let me know if you get to try the ham!

Comment by josejose50

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