Best Jamon Iberico (Iberico Ham)
To find the best jamon iberico, we ordered in several brands of this famous Spanish ham and started tasting. (Yes, a tough job, but someday had to do it).
We tried jamon iberico with crackers and cheese . . . and a bottle of Spanish wine. Perhaps two bottles of wine.
Where were we? Oh, yes, the best jamon iberico.
First, let’s talk about what makes jamon iberico so special.
Acorns . . . and more acorns
Made in Spain and Portugal, jamon iberico is renowned for its smokey, rich flavor.
To be called jamon iberico, you first have to start with Black Iberian-bred pigs . . . which trace their history in Spain back to 12,000 BCE.
There are several grades of jamon iberico—perhaps the most famous is jamon iberico de bellota. “Bellota” is acorn in Spanish—and as you might have guessed, these are pigs that are fed only acorns (at least during the last period of their lifespan).
Here are the four basic grades of jamon iberico:
• Black label: jamon iberico made from 100% iberico de bellota. This ham is made from pure-bred Black Iberian pigs fed acorns.
• Red-label: jamon iberico de bellota is produced from pigs that are NOT pure-bred. These free range pigs are still fed a diet of acorns, however.
• Green label: jamon iberico cebo de campo is ham from pastured pigs that are feed both grain and acorns. This imparts a different flavor profile.
• White label: jamon iberico de cebo is made from pigs that are fed only grain.
Each type of jamon iberico is cured for a different length of time. White label jamon iberico is cured for 24 months, for example.
After trying out several types of iberico ham, here are the ones we’d recommend.