There’s a reason why the pork in Portugal is often surprisingly good.
Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has confused jamón ibérico, the prized Spanish ham, with run-of-the-mill jamón serrano in a gaffe on a par with a French politician referring to a fine burgundy as plonk.
Speaking at the centuries-old livestock fair in Zafra in Extremadura, western Spain, Sánchez left his audience open-mouthed when he told them “you can be sure that when the Chinese president visited Spain he would have been served a plate of jamón serrano from Extremadura”.
Extremadura is the cradle of jamón ibérico, a delicacy capable of throwing Spaniards of all political persuasions into a gastronomic swoon. The local farmers’ association said it had dispatched some to Madrid to educate Sánchez, lest he once again cast his swine before pearls.
The finest version of the ham, jamón ibérico bellota, is made from Iberian blackfoot pigs, or from 50% crossbreeds, which spend the last months of their lives roaming the dehesa – oakland pasture – feeding on grass and acorns.
Once slaughtered, the legs are plunged into vats of salt and hung and dry-cured over a range of temperatures for a minimum of 36 months. The best jamones are cured for around four years.
Quite so. Not that pigs eat very much grass, obviously, but the rootle around in it, certainly. And the type of oak we’re talking about, not England’s majestics, but the much smaller cork oak – the same things that produce cork, obviously.
The thing being this ecosystem extends across into Portugal. In fact, overs much of the southern half of it.
More recently a company was caught selling “Spanish” ham that had in fact originated in Poland.
So, the black pigs that the stuff comes from, possibly bred but certainly fattened in Portugal. And slaughtered. The legs go off to Spain to be cured. But this leaves lots of lovely free range, acorn fed, black pig porkshiousness to be consumed locally.
Where it is. One cut being “secretos” which is a particular few slices off the belly. Scrummy. And most butcher’s counters will have a separate section of that black pork – no, it’s only the skin colour that is black – as chops and all that.
Town just up the road that claims at least to be the centre of this business. Ourique……which is where some reasonable portion of “Spanish” ham originates from.