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.