Next Stop Spain

We all have our favorites. I really am not a discriminating girl, I like good, fresh foods cooked well but there isn't usually something that I eat with true an utter abandon (well perhaps other than a slight weakness for peanut butter and grapefruits, not combined, don't worry) but there is something about cured salty meats, you have to admit. It makes me feel a little weak at the knees and my heart begin to flutter. But above and beyond, the sexiest of all cured meats, has got to be the Jamon Serrano of Spain. It is thinker, richer, darker than the Jamon Crudos of Argentina and there is something almost creamy about the texture, something meater that even takes it a step beyond Procuitto (and that is saying something serious). I ate my way through Spain with a grin of guttony and a shine to my eyes, though I suppose honestly, that may have been the rediculously delicious Sangria.

While at a Food Festival in the UK, I met an importer of Jamon Serrano and Jamon Iberico, its fancier, and more expensive cousin. Both hams are salt-cured first, for a few weeks to draw out mostiure and then washed and hung to dry, the cheaper ones for about 6 months and the more expensive for up to 2 years.

The difference between the two hams is the type of pig, Serrano is litterally "mountain ham" and are from a breed of white pig called Landrace, while Jamon Iberico breaks down into a few catagories (helpfully provided from Wiki); though I suppose there is no accounting for taste, because I actually like the cheap stuff better, scandalous.
  • Jamón Iberico de Recebo: Acorn, pasture and compound-fed Iberian pigs
  • Jamón Iberico de Campo: (Sometimes just Jamón Iberico in short and also known as Jamón de Pata Negra). Compound-fed Iberian pigs. Pata negra (literally black hoof), which only accounts for about five percent of total ham production, is made from the Black Iberian Pig (cerdo ibérico). The best varieties of pata negra are range fed and fattened on acorns in cork oak groves along the southern border between Spain and Portugal. (see the two subcategories above)
Of course, there is more to Spain than just awe-inspiring cured meats, thats right, there is also Paella. After our much to short stint in Sevilla, it was off to Tarifa, for a little sun and surf, which can mean only one thing, lots of seafood. Paella originates in Valencia, and while in my opintion is most fantastic with seafood can also be made with just about any type of meat; rabbit, chicken, beef, whatever strikes ones fancy.

This version is made with onions, garlic, saffron, a variety of seafood, short-grain rice, some veggies, and fish stock, and if you look at the next picture you can see all that remained after I got my hands on it.


matt wright said...

fantastic looking food. I just saw the Bourdain episode, and this post of yours has just reconfirmed that I really need to visit Spain!

adele said...

Mmm. I didn't spend as much time in Spain as I would have liked during my year in Europe. Your photos make me think I should definitely plan another trip. :)