A BRIEF HISTORY OF JAMON IBERICO
Jamón ibérico is a culinary masterpiece in Spain (península ibérica), made exclusively from the meat of black-hoofed (Pata Negra) Iberian pigs. The finest of all jamón ibérico—the classification of which is regulated by stringent Real Decreto del Reino de España guidelines—is made from a special breed of Iberian pigs that are fed at the last winter of their lives with only acorns, or bellotas, and free-range pasture. These animals are raised according to strict regulations, in turn rendering an end product that is some of the purest, most delicious food there is. This “jamón ibérico de bellota” accounts for just 5–6% of the total jamón ibérico output. The history of this delicacy—and the pigs that create it—is as richly textured as the product itself.
700,000 YEARS AGO
Pigs bones found in Sierra de Atapuerca, shows that modern pigs (sus scrofa), were in Europe then. By that time, the Ata- puercans in their prehistoric Spanish caves were starting the great Iberian tradition.
9th CENTURY BCE
The first ancestor of black-hoofed Iberian pigs are (thankfully) brought into existence by the interbreeding of pigs and Mediterranean wild boars.
Pliny the Elder wrote in his Natural History about the pigs from the Iberian Peninsula (Hispania):
"There's no animal that affords a greater variety to the plate all the others have their own peculiar flavor, but the flesh of these hogs has nearly fifty different flavors."
Around the same time, 4,000 hams were cured for the export to Rome.
The Moors - a group whose Islamic tenets forbade the consumption of pork - invade the Iberian Peninsula from North Africa. Eating jamón becomes an act of rebellion politics!
The Moor's rule over the Iberian Peninsula ends after the fall of Granada, and Spain emerges as a world power. Jamon, in turn, resurfaces as an integral part of the country's identity and culture. Meanwhile, this same year, Christopher Columbus reached America with the help of the cured meat from Iberian pigs - healthy, energetic and long lasting food for such a journey.
Iberian pigs prove themselves seaworthy once again when they sail with Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the Americas.
Hernando De Soto stepped ashore in Tampa with six hundred soldiers, two hundred horses, and thirteen pigs. When he died at the Mississippi River in 1542 his property consisted of three horses and seven hundred pigs.
Jerez de los Caballeros - a community in the Extremadura region of Spain - claims to be fattening up to 100,000 pigs on acorns. We call such and oak-heavy ecosystem la dehesa.
Richard Ford - an English traveler known for detailing his excursions throughout Spain- writes:
"The pork of Spain has always been, and is, unequaled in flavor; the bacon is fat and favored, the sausages delicious, and the hams transcendentally superlative..."
The story goes that during the Apollo 13 crisis, the crew used glazed ham in the construction of a makeshift CO2 filter. While not Jamon Iberico it proves that sometimes pork products aren't only delectable, but downright lifesaving!
2008 - 2013
The year covering 2008 - 2013, Spain was able to sell 31.940.977 pieces of Jamones Ibericos.