Often when Spanish people want to describe something that’s super fine they call it “pata negra,” “black leg.” Therein lies a story. There are two versions of Spain’s renowned “jamón serrano,” or “mountain ham,” salt cured traditionally in villages at high altitudes with crisp temperatures and mountain air.
The first is what we’ll call standard jamón serrano made from normal white pigs. This can be an excellent ham and it’s what you’ll usually find in tapas bars around the country.
But there’s another, superior ham, iberico ham (jamón de pata negra), that is made exclusively from autochthonous black Spanish pigs–descendents of Iberian wild boars, they say. These pigs are raised free range eating the acorns that grow on the holm oaks of large farms called “dehesas,” which occupy an area in the south and east of Spain roughly equivalent to that of Belgium. The meat from these uniquely Spanish black pigs is superior tasting, thanks to the delicious finely-marbled fat that permeates the flesh. The pata negra ham is so superior, in fact, that it has a cult following both inside and outside of Spain, and connoisseurs are prepared to pay more than double for it.
Foods from Spain has produced four excellent videos on the subject of jamón iberico. They take us from the dehesa to the rearing of the native Iberian pig, and its processing into what is arguably the world’s finest ham. The last video is a lesson in carving the jamón iberico, a critical step in the pata negra gastronomic experience. We’re offering you the first two videos here, the final two next week. They are the next best thing to sharing a plate of jamón de pata negra and a few copas of wine with friends. For that you have to buy a ticket to Spain. Don’t be shy.
Videos courtesy of Foods from Spain.com