Jamón ibérico de bellota attributes its sweet, nutty flavour to the idyllic lifestyle of the black Iberian pigs that it comes from. Allowed to roam free in dehesa or oak forests, the cerdo negro (black pigs) are mean exercisers and clock up to 8km a day. Paired with a raging appetite for acorns many pigs put on an average of one kilo a day in weight.
The high fat content of the meat allows it to be hung and air-cured for up to 36 months without drying out and each deep burgundy slice of bellota or pata negra has signature marbled white stripes of fat running through it. Less than 10 per cent of all Spanish hams are made from pure-bred Iberian pigs making it more than double the price of normal jamón serrano. Best eaten freshly carved from the bone and held in a traditional holder or jamoneros.
Three of the best
Hams and curers
- 5J Ibérico Puro Bellota by Meson Cinco Jotas, 5J. The largest ham-producer in Jabugo, a town so devoted to ham that its main square is called La Plaza del Jamon.
3: “Gran Reserva” by Joselito. This Salamancan family-run outfit founded in the 19th century cures its hams for 24 to 36 months.
Six of the best
One of the few places in New Zealand you can purchase bellota ham.
Bar Centro in The Bazaar, Los Angeles.
Offers bellota alongside the less pricey jamón ibérico and serrano.
Fernandez & Wells, London.
Sells Maldonado’s finest bellota on the bone or a French alternative from the Pyrenées called Noir de Bigorre.
Bar de Espana JAMPACK, Kyoto.
Kyoto’s Kiyamachi-dori tapas bar imports its bellota on the bone from Barcelona’s Reserva Ibérica.
Olé Spanish Restaurant and Wine Bar, Hong Kong.
Olé opened 12 years ago and was the first restaurant to introduce Spanish ham to Hong Kong.
Toni’s Serrano Schinke, Hamburg.
Barmbek’s neighbourhood delicatessen specialises in Spanish gourmet treats including tasty pata negra.