December 10, 2007

Hammin' It Up with the Ibericos

Courtesy of the New York Times, I saw last week that those living in the United States can now -- for the first time -- get their mitts on one of Spain’s most exquisite delicacies, Iberico hams.

These prized hams, which take more than two years to cure, are lush, almost mahogany-colored and deeply flavorful, streaked with creamy fat from the famous black-footed (pata negra) pigs of western Spain. Such luxury comes at a price. The ham will retail for more than $50 a pound.

In addition to being sold at high-end food shops, whole hams (boneless, about nine pounds; bone in, about 15 pounds) can be ordered from, with a deposit of $199.

The arrival of such a luscious-sounding style of cured pork product on American soil is true reason for celebration. But, as the Times article suggests, it may be a delicacy few will get to enjoy. In fact, the price for the whole 8.5-9 pound ham will be about $800. For those prices, it’s safe to presume that these hams will mostly end up in the kitchens of Spanish tapas restaurants, where a few paper-thin slices will probably run the price of an entrée. Why? Supply and demand, I suppose.

In the next few weeks, some restaurants and shops will serve and sell their allotments of the initial shipment of 300 hams from Embutidos Fermín, in La Alberca, Spain, the only producer that is authorized by the United States Department of Agriculture to export the hams here.

If the imports proceed without problems, more hams will arrive in coming months through Fermín USA, a partnership among Mr. Andrés, Embutidos Fermín and the Rogers Collection, a distributor.

Now, I happen to know one of the two fellows who run the Rogers Collection, and talked with him last year about these very hams. Getting all of the paperwork in order and coming into compliance with USDA regulations sounded like a formidable undertaking. I'm hoping to get some more details from him in the next few days about just how good these hams are and what restaurants or specialty stores will be offering it.

In a brief email exchange earlier this week, he didn’t comment on whether he thinks it's superior to Prosciutto de Parma. So, darn it, that’s something I guess I’ll have to investigate for myself next time I’m in D.C., probably in February. I can only hope that Jaleo, owned by famous D.C. chef José Andrés -- without whose help these delectable hams probably would not be available in the States -- will have some in stock so that I may gladly grossly overpay for some cured pork nirvana.

Or, even better, maybe the local -- and quite good -- Spanish restaurant Mallorca, or its adjoining tapas sister, Ibiza, will decide to hop on the Iberico wagon train. That's a call I suspect I'll be making very soon.

* Image from

1 comment:

Frank said...

Believe it or not, it was sold over the holiday for about $35./lb at Penn Mac. I had the opportunity to try a morsel and it was unlike any pork product I've ever experienced. From what I understand, the key to the flavors of the ham lies in the pigs' diet of grass, herbs and acorns. I was too cheap to buy it then but I won't make the same mistake twice!