On a random Thursday night, Sean and I decided to begin our education on Jamón Ibérico and Sherry. Pim Pam, which we’d both loved the last time we visited, was holding an Iberico Ham Fiesta and was featuring a live carving station of Joselito’s Vintage Iberico Ham 2009. Basically, a unique 9-year-old hulk of delicious aged ham leg. And boy, did it whet our curiosity and appetites.
Let’s go back to the basics to learn what actually differentiates Iberico Ham from all others. Generally, brown Iberico pigs are allowed to graze in a broad open parkland. They are grass-fed and in winter, are fattened on acorns. After 18 months, they are slaughtered and cured with sea salt and go through years of natural drying.
Dry hanging the ham allows it to sweat gently, breaking down the fat, and allowing it to seep into the muscle. This produces a special micro-marbling that’s detectable only when a slice of it is held to the light. It is actually the diet of acorns that give the Iberico its sweet, melt-in-the-mouth nuttiness. Usually, they’re hung up to dry for about 6 years. This bad boy here has been aged 9 years.
Just look at that unique marbling! We’d tried different hams including iberico, serrano and others at the La Boqueria Market in Barcelona. And what’s truly distinctive about this 2009 Joselito is that it had a more complex, stronger flavour than the other hams i’d tasted. It had a distinctive nutty aroma, and the fat which melts in the mouth was slightly sweet. We were told this was because of the late fattening period of the pigs with irregular rainfall which favoured the preservation of the acorn.
It was absolutely divine on its own. So good we ordered a full portion ($40). A leg of premium vintage ham can go for up to 3000 Euros, so this was quite a steal.
We were game to try it with other tapas dishes too — like this FOC Eggs ($18).
This was the 2009 jamon with breadcrumbed slow-cooked egg, roasted potato cream, topped with deep-fried kale. Loved how runny the egg was in the middle. That delicious gooeyness went perfectly with the mash and savoury chewiness of the ham. Absolutely delish!
We also tried it in the Steam Bun ($16/pc) form.
Somehow this was much less satisfying. It could be that there was too little ham in it, the fact that the rocket leaves and cream cheese totally clashed with the flavours of the ham, or that the buns were overwhelming the thin slices of meat. We thought this wasn’t great use of such amazing ham.
But on to the Sherry! It was another favourite part of the meal.
We went for two flights of 6 different kinds of Sherry — (from left)
- Lastau Almacenista Fino del Puerto “Gonzales Obregon”
- Lustau 3 En Rama Manzanilla de Sanlucar Sacar 2017
- Gonzalez Byass Del Duque VORS
- Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe En Rama 2017
- Lustau Almancenista Manzanilla Pasada de Sanlucar
Our personal favourite has got to be the Byass Del Duque VORS — the one right in the middle with that gorgeous caramel brown colour.
What makes Sherry different from regular white wine? It’s essentially a white grape wine that is fortified to increase their alcohol content. Much like champagne in France, Sherry has to be grown in the city of Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia, Spain.
Generally, a Fino is the driest and palest of the traditional Sherries. The Manzanilla is a light variety of the Fino Sherry, while the Manazanilla Pasada has undergone extended aging or has been partially oxidised to give it a richer, nuttier flavour. The Amontillado (the darkest coloured one we loved) is a type of Sherry that is first aged under flor, then exposed to oxygen which produces a Sherry that is darker than a Fino. It had a lovely, honey-like aftertaste that was neither too sweet nor cloying. Super lovely.
It was such a fun night out. The Spanish sure know how to celebrate the good life with the best of meats and fruits from the earth. Salud!