A Brief History of Jamon Iberico
Jamón Ibérico is a Spanish culinary masterpiece created solely 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 have been raised in accordance with strict guidelines, resulting in some purest, most delicious food available. This “jamón ibérico de bellota” accounts for just 5 to 6% of the total jamón ibérico output. The history of this delicacy, as well as the pigs who produce it, is as complex as the product itself.
2008 - 2013
700,000 YEARS AGO
Pig bones discovered in the Sierra de Atapuerca indicate that modern pigs (sus scrofa) were present in Europe at the time. By that time, the Ata-puercans had begun the famous Iberian tradition in their prehistoric Spanish caves.
"There's no animal that affords a greater variety to the plate-" Pliny the Elder wrote about pigs from the Iberian Peninsula (Hispania) in his Natural History "All the others have their own distinctive flavor, but the meat of these hogs has nearly fifty various flavors." 4,000 hams were cured at the same time for shipment to Rome.
The Moorish dominance of the Iberian Peninsula ends with the fall of Granada, and Spain becomes 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.
With six hundred men, two hundred horses, and thirteen hogs, Hernando De Soto landed at Tampa. His estate consisted of three horses and seven hundred pigs when he died in 1542 near the Mississippi River.
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 are delicious, and the hams transcendentally superlative..."
The year covering 2008-2013, Spain was able to sell 31,940,977 pieces of Jamones Ibericos.
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.
The Moors, a North African tribe whose Islamic beliefs forbid the use of pork, invade the Iberian Peninsula. Eating jamón becomes an act of rebellion politics!
Iberian pigs prove themselves seaworthy once again when they sail with Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to America.
Jerez de Los Caballeros (a town in Spain's Extremadura area) claims to be able to feed up to 100,000 pigs on acorns. La Dehesa is the name given to an oak-dominated environment.
According to legend, the crew of Apollo 13 built a makeshift CO2 filter out of glazed ham during the crisis. While Jamon Iberico demonstrates that pig products may be not only delicious, but also life-saving!