Hamming on

December 2008

One of the delights of Christmas for this pork lover is the chance to gorge on ham — and now jamón — until you never want to see a slice again … until next Christmas. I’ve assembled what I reckon are the pick of the piggie treats for your table.

First, new kid on the block, Cinco Jotas, has jamón from Spanish pork heaven (especially for the little piggies), Jabugo. CJ has been around since 1879 when one Don Rafael Sánchez Romero opened his first drying room in the little mountain village that had long been used for this pursuit because of its mountain air: cold and dry by day, humid by night, just the ticket for air curing.

It’s a  jamón Ibérico de bellota, which means it’s made from the legs of the Iberian race of pigs, which are long of ear and black of feet and which graze all day on acorns in oak forests. Bliss. And expensive bliss, but worth it (you don’t need a lot, 50g a head is a good plan) from any Simon Johnson store.

Then there’s the Joselito, also jamón Ibérico de bellota, which bills itself as “more than a brand — a legend” and is the favourite jamón of Ferran Adrià (see archived November column), another sensational product. That’s at Terry Wright’s Gourmet Butcher in Clovelly.

Both are made the same way. After 7–10 days packed in salt (in the case of both Joselito and CJ, that’s sea salt with no added nitrates), the legs are washed, dried and hung to cure in curing sheds for up to three years, losing up to 50 per cent of  their weight in the process, but gaining extraordinary flavour.

If you want a good old Aussie cooked ham, I’d go for the Pasture Perfect Pork from Miriam and Jack Neilson in Tenterfield, the largest certified organic pork producer in NSW. Their hams are made using Berkshire pigs (AKA kurobuta, Japanese for “black pig”). This is also a gorgeous ham and you can find it at David Jones Food Halls, Macro and Wholefoods House.

Finally, a Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah or Season’s Greetings or Happy Holidays — your choice: eat well, drink wisely and well, and see you in the New Year.

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