Our team have eaten Iberico Ham every Christmas for years now. A number of years ago, we were lucky enough to make friends with a local shop owner who traded just a little way down from our office (Amazon has many great suppliers these days too).
We're proper foodies here took every opportunity to learn about, sample, compare and even travel to see the farms in Saville.
Recently, when exploring for some Iberico Ham for Christmas this year, I was shocked to see some articles (written by mainstream media outlets) that didn't know the head from the tail. So, here we are to fix all that.
What is Iberico Ham (Jamon Iberico)?
To put this very simply: Iberico Ham (Jamon Iberico in Spanish) is a cured meat produced along the Iberian Peninsular and the highlands of Saville. The ham is produced from Iberican Black pigs who are fed a diet of sweet, fatty acorns (from Oak & Cork trees between October and March). This gives the finished cured meat a delectably sweet and nutty flavour and calcified kernels that you find in the meat- it also gives the finest ham its name 'De Bellota' (nuts).
There is a number so different Iberico Ham Classifications but the three main ones are as follows:
Black Label (Iberico Jamon de Bellota): the finest reserved for the very best. This Jamon is produced using 100% Iberico Pork meat which has been fed a diet of 100% acorns.
The ham is oily and marbled with a soft, almost translucent fat. To smell you instantly get the notes of the acorns and a deep, complex rich ham. To taste - is a complex, sweet, savoury, fatty flamenco dance of flavour.
Green Label (Iberico De Campo): This Jamon is a grade down from Black Label - although it hasn't quite made the mark for Black Label, the Green is still superb to feast on. Usually, these pigs are fed a diet of both acorns and corn - and are between 100%- 70% Iberian black pigs.
The Green label is not quite as soft and fatty as the black label, but some examples are very close. The meat is slightly brighter in colour and the smell is not quite as nutty. The flavours are salty and delightfully chewy.
This is the Jamon that Spanish people adore in Bocadillos, Tapa or a treat.
Red Label: The red label may be a trade secret, but here you are with the knowledge. The classification process is very expensive for producers, so they only send a select few finest examples of Jamon to be classified. The others they know they can sell to the locals, at a better price, with the same quality. While you can't purchase a red label Jamon in the UK when you travel to Spain make sure you chose a red label. It may be as fine as a Back label, without the added cost.
I tried a red label once that is still the best Jamon I ever tried.
White Label: Honestly, not worth your time. This is the cheapest, poorest quality Jamon on the market. Usually, the pigs are fed a partial acorn diet but mostly corn feed, and they are less than 50% Iberian Black Pig. Consider this Jamon an expensive Serrano Ham.
Paleta Iberica Vs Iberico Jamon
There are also two different types of Jamon you will encounter. The Paleta Iberica (the shoulder - or front leg) and the Iberico Jamon (the black leg).
The difference between the two is actually fairly pronounced.
The black leg for instance is much larger, and therefore, takes much longer to cure (about another year). It gives the Jamon a much richer, complex and mellow flavour. The meat also contains much less intermuscular fat.
The Paleta is much smaller in size and has a lot more fat content. Thanks to the smaller size, the joint only takes 24 months to cure which explains the 'younger' flavour. It is more salty, chewy and vibrant. Often, most people seem to prefer the shoulder as an everyday cut, while they prefer the legs for a celebration.
The Best Iberico Jamon in the UK
These days, even with the development of technology, it can still be a struggle to find Iberico ham in the UK that isn't shipped from Spain or is overly expensive. There are a few options to choose from and most of them can be delivered the next day.
So let us dive into some of the options that cover all bases - fantastic ham, fast delivery and good customer service.
The Black Hoof
The Black Hoof is a wonderful online shop and Spanish deli based in Edinburgh. They have a huge selection if different hams from different regions.
You can buy all of the Black Hoof's Iberico Ham options on Amazon - meaning they can be with you the next day with prime.
We've spoken to the owner many times before and the customer service is exceptional - even when things didn't quite go to plan.
Amazon has one of the largest communities of Jamon sellers and is one of the most reliable places to find Jamon.
There is one issue - it is amazon. They do take a significant cut of the profits and, while their shipping and automated services is great, they do not offer a good personal experience.
So, if you find something you like on amazon, you may be able to find it online and support the seller directly!
Brindisa is one of the oldest Spanish delis in the UK and live in the Borough Market in London. If you're familiar with the market, then they are right on the corner of the market just down from the bridge.
They offer high-end lunches and Tapa to business execs, well-paid professionals and tourists alike.
While you can pop in when you're in the big city, you can also order your Iberico ham online. It's tried, trusted and loved by all who have passed by.
Jamon Prive is a huge online Iberico Ham company and mostly specialises in Spanish cured meats. They are easy to find online and on Amazon, where they are a huge range of Iberico Ham, Serrano Ham and everything in between.
They offer really good ham at slightly cheaper prices and quick delivery via amazon.