The picture that you see is not a fake. You see pigs with black feet (pata negra) enjoying the environment of woods and waters in Spain) in one of the farms of Joselito, may be the most famous producer of bellota (acorn fed) ham. The leg is cured for a period ranging from 2 to 4 years and the whole process transforms the flesh of the acorn fed pig into a symphony of flavours. In addition, due to the chemical composition of acorns, the fat of the pig is transformed into an olive oil tasting substance.
There is no way to relay the whole experience, one has to taste this beautiful piece of cured meat. During my recent visit to Munich, Manolis welcomed me with a whole leg of Joselito’s bellota ham. This post is dedicated to Manolis and Joselito.
I start with the presentation of the whole leg on its stand, as presented to me upon my entry in Manolis’ dining room. Next to it, stands a bottle of rioja, “Castillo Ygay”, of 1978. The little card has a poem of Manolis:
“Το συντεκνο ο Μανωλιος
για να καλωσορισει
τον Χοσελιτο εστειλε
να τον προυπαντησει”
(liberally translated this means:
Preparing to welcome his brother,
Manolis has sent Joselito
to greet him)
The task of slicing is what can destroy or glorify the meat. The thinner the slice, the bigger is the surface exposed to the air, thus more aromas are released. But the most important seems to me is the marbling of the meat, these thin translucent lines of fat that give to the meat the unique flavor. Although the initial treatment of the leg is in a mix of salt and herbs, the meat is not salty at all! This is the first sign of quality.
Eating Joselito ham is a long process, that requires very good wine, that can accept the role of the second violin, as the first violin and the conductor of the orchestra is unquestionably, Joselito! The experience grows on you as you overcome the shock of the first tasting. I have tasted Joselito now since 2003, and it is always a revelation. The aftertaste is long and complex. This requires a slow eating process, long pauses to enjoy, to close your eyes, to relax and retreat into the world of the senses!
The first day’s session lasted almost 6 hours, and as you can see it had a noticeable impact on the leg.
When you see the meat close up, you will be impressed by the thick ruby color. Another important feature of bellota ham, is that it sweats, i.e. it releases its fat gradually and steadily once it is cut.
The hard work of day 1 required a second wine, which was a native Austrian red, with the impressive name “Admiral”, produced by Poeckl, in 1999.
The hard work with Joselito work continued on day 2 and the results are noticeable.
Thank you Manolis, thank you Marion, thank you Athina, for this wonderful treat!