Photo by Tashoma Lemard
Jamón at Little Iberic
When I first started getting seriously into Spanish food, I was told that slicing jamón—and by jamón I’m referring to Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, not the inferior Serrano—with an electric blade compromised the taste of it. Evidently the heat causes a minor chemical reaction in the fat and the flesh, which subtly but irrevocably changes the flavour. As such, aficionados will insist that the porcine delicacy should always be hand carved, a theory that is wholeheartedly embraced by Daniel and Angela at the newly-opened Little Ibèric in the Barri Gòtic.
Here they carve all their small, but carefully chosen, selection of jamóns by hand, the best in show being a four-year-old from the D.O. Dehesa de Extremadura—dehesa refers to the oak wooded hills of the region, which provide the crucial acorn diet of the pigs—that has a tarry-looking skin, petit black trotters, flesh the colour of old wine and fat as sweet and yellow as butterscotch. Fifty grams of this baby—just about enough for two—will cost you €12, but what a taste: nutty, sweet, fragrant with acorn forests and a firm yet buttery texture that doesn’t so much melt on the tongue as caress it.
The way it’s carved is equally seductive, with the trotter elegantly a-point into the air and the silvery blade of the jamón knife carefully peeling off perfect slivers of meat—about 75 percent flesh to 25 percent fat. If you’re treating yourself to something special this Christmas, this one’s a no-brainer.
Little Ibèric, Escudellers 56, tel. 93 676 2211, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The best of the rest—other hams to try
Barcelona’s markets are, of course, full of charcuterie stalls selling not only fine jamóns, but all the other porky treats that make your Christmas table groan beneath their weight.
The D.O. for Jamón Ibérico covers three different regions as well as Extremadura: in the north, the town of Guijelo in Salamanca is best known for Joselito, widely considered to be one of the best producers in Spain. Until recently, it was almost certainly the jamón you would be served in Spain’s fine dining restaurants, though a surge of boutique producers is changing that. To the west, the town of Jabugo in Huelva, Andalucía is home to 5J Sánchez Romero Carvajal—otherwise known as Cinco Jotas—and to the east, the more recently appointed region of Valle de Los Pedroches, just north of Cordoba.