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Ham it Up with Jamon Iberico

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Why Jamon Iberico is the ultimate ham for your next charcuterie board.

The next time you’re throwing a cocktail party or simply planning to enjoy a good apero, make your charcuterie board the bomb with the addition of Jamon Iberico. Jamon Iberico is more than a cured leg of pork, it elevates ham as you know it and has a flavor that can only be described as  sublime. The taste is floral, earthy, sweet and nutty like a good wedge of Parmesan cheese. Because of its Oleic fat profile, Jamon Iberico is healthier than your average pork product. Once you indulge in Jamon Iberico you’ll never go back to simple prosciutto again.   

The History of Jamon Iberico

The history of Jamon Iberico goes back centuries in Spain and Portugal. The meat comes from black Iberico pigs. In order to carry Spain’s Denominacion de Origen designation, Jamon Iberico must come from purebred black Iberian pigs, or a pig that has at least 50% Black Iberian mixed with the Duroc pig. 

While Christopher Columbus sailed to America with Iberico pigs, it wasn’t until 2007 that the first Jamon Iberico was imported for sale in the United States and not until 2014 that actual Iberian pigs were back on American soil since the country’s discovery. Today, you can find artisanal American producers making Jamon Iberico, or purchase products directly from Europe.

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What makes Jamon Iberico Unique

Iberico pigs have a higher fat content with veins of fat running through their muscles. This allows Iberico ham to be cured longer, resulting in more complex and intense flavors. Iberico ham comes in three levels from Jamon Iberico to the ultimate, Jamon Iberico de Bellota. This premiere level is made from the meat of pure bred Iberico pigs that subsisted on a diet of acorns. The ham that comes from these pampered piggy’s is what has led Jamon Iberico to foodie cult status.

How Jamon Iberico is Made 

Making Jamon Iberico requires salt, air and patience. Freshly cut hams are covered in sea salt for seven to 10 days and kept in a low temperature, high humidity environment. Next, they are rinsed to remove excess salt and kept for one to two months in a frigid and humid space so that the salt penetrates the ham deeper. In the drying and maturation phase the ham is kept in a temperature-controlled space for six to 12 months. During this time the ham loses moisture and fat and the final flavors and aromas develop. 

Iberico hams are then hung in a cellar or bodega for at least two more years. As the ham continues to cure, weight and fat drips away. As more flavors develop, Jamon Iberico elevates it from a cured leg of pork to a magical explosion of flavors that make Jamon Iberico de Bellota the ultimate cured meat. 

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Buying Jamon Iberico

When shopping for Jamon Iberico, opt for the finest, Jamon Iberico de Bellota. This is the only one where the pigs were fed only acorns, not a mix of acorns and hay and the result is the tastiest Jamon Iberico you can buy. 

“When you go to purchase Jamon Iberico, the most important thing is authenticity and to make sure the product comes from 100 percent Iberico pigs. Trust me, you can taste the difference,” James Porter, owner of Terra Market and Terra Manor + Farm in Prescott, Arizona says. Porter is one of only a handful of American producers raising pure Iberican pigs and selling an array of products from them including chops, sausages and bacon. 

Another good tip is to look for products that were hand-sliced. Master carvers better distribute the fat throughout the entire piece. 

The top Spanish brand is Cinco Jotas, which sells directly to American consumers online. Specialty food shops like La Tienda, Despana and Jamon are also good sources for Jamon Iberico.

With Jamon Iberico on your charcuterie board you’ll enjoy the tastiest, healthiest cured meat available and no doubt impress all those lucky enough to enjoy the apéro with you.

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