It was in Lisbon that I first tried what the Portuguese call Pata Negra, or black foot ham. A delicious, bold red ham that comes from Iberico pigs, with, yes, you guessed it black feet. While we generally prize Serano ham in the United States, Jamon Ibericos is the premium ham in Spain. These are happy pigs, rolling around in the forest and feeding on acorns, which is why they are so darn delicious.
Some of the well-aged whole hams go for $3000 per leg. These are generally special edition, vintage hams that have been aged for 15 years, developed an intense and rich flavor and are sometimes sold in exclusive designer leather cased.
Within an hour of arriving in Madrid, I was struck by the beautiful site of the big Museo del Jamon (Museum of Ham) stores which are found in the city center and which serve tapas and drinks and contain dozens of gorgeous hams.
One of the best scenes to try many things, we found was in the Mercado San Miguel, with its diverse array of eating options, including a ham specialty counter that represented all the the beautiful and intensely flavored Iberico options.
From a nice cerveceria in Plaza Santa Anna, we found our selves a half platter of Iberico cuts. We had the bold and nearly violet ham, fiery chorizo sausage, fatty lomo (cured loin), and salty and spicy salchichon (like salami), which was a superb pairing for intense Manchego cheese and complex Rioja wine.
I was tempted to buy a leg and smuggle it home, but alas my apartment in DC, can't really accommodate a leg of ham hanging from a light fixture.
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