Haley will be posting a blog post all about food in Spain shortly, but the topic of ham deserved a post all of it’s own. One of the first things we noticed when we arrived in Spain is all the ham – called jamon. Every menu has tons of options involving ham. There are traditional ham items for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The number of tapas (traditional appetizer dishes) with ham is astounding. And then there are the grocery stores. The sections dedicated to ham are huge. Butchers are separated by the type of meat they work with and the biggest counter is always for the ham guy. Everywhere you go there is ham. I had to understand what it was all about so I did a little research and turns out it’s kind of a long and complicated story. And you’ll never guess where I read it… jamon.com! Yes! There is an entire website all about Spain’s jamon and if you like you can even order a big leg of ham for the low price of $1,995. No, that was not a typo. They are that serious about their ham.
I’m not going to go into the long story of how Spain ended up liking all this ham, so if you’re really interested you can read it here and some more interesting stuff here but I have to quote a paragraph from jamon.com: It was served in paper thin slices on a plate that was warmed to about 80 degrees. At that temperature the fat literally melted onto the plate. On first bite, the flavor of the ham was incredible. Sweet, nutty, and not too salty. Then the complexity of ham flavors increased. An essential part of the flavor and mouth-feel was the way the fat melted away, releasing flavors that told the story of the noble Ibérico swine, of the dehesa forest pasture, of the years of careful curing, and of the countryside of Spain itself.
It’s like Spain has a love affair with ham. Should we give you two a moment alone??
I had the ham a few times and it’s… okay. One thing for our American readers to understand is that Spanish ham is NOT like our ham. Or what we think about when we think of ham. It’s more like our uncooked bacon, actually. Or maybe very very very thinly sliced salami. But not totally. It’s just…different. I’m not a huge fan of ham but I did enjoy it with some cheese. I probably don’t appreciate it like a true Spaniard, but I did appreciate how obsessed they are with it. It made me laugh, actually. A few days ago in Granada we ordered the traditional jamon iberico to try and see what all the fuss was about. It was… okay. Maybe we didn’t have the right temperature of plate! But it was better with some bread like cracker thingees. It reminded me of a nice picnic type food but not necessarily worthy of a national obsession.
Anyway, it was amusing while we were here. Here are a few pictures as evidence of Spain’s love affair with jamon.