Jamon

April 24, 2009 · 2 comments

I’m posting from London, where we’re on vacation during Miles’s spring school break.

Yesterday we visited Harrods department store, where I automatically gravitated to the legendary Food Hall. At the charcuterie counter I had convinced myself to buy a bit of jamón ibérico, the cured Spanish ham I’d heard about but never tasted. It only became available for import to the US last year, and in such limited quantities that is was selling for the equivalent of a down payment for a small car. At 10 pounds per 100 grams, the ham at Harrods was a steal.

Just as I was about to place my order, Diane called my attention to this magnificent hunk of meat:

Whole jamon

According to the sign this was the real deal: Jabugo 5J ibérico paleta de bellota, the top grade of jamón made from black-footed pigs raised on wild acorns. And it was only 15.5 pounds per 100g, down from 19 pounds (it was on sale for St. George’s Day, which seems to be the equivalent of President’s Day for store sales).

The butcher, who might have a future as the world’s classiest crack dealer, offered me a slice to taste. Big mistake. One bite and I knew I was leaving with cold cuts that cost $113 per pound. He informed us that Harrods was the only store in Britain licensed to sell this particular ham. I replied that I was aware of that distinction and had traveled all the way from the States to buy a quarter pound of the world’s best ham. I had him going for about a minute.

Sliced jamon

We grabbed a loaf of fresh bread on the way out, planning to have ham and bread for breakfast.

And what a breakfast it was. Place a slice of this ham in your mouth and the fat just melts away, leaving an aftertaste of acorns and grass. The meat is air cured with minimal salting, so you taste concentrated pork but no smoke. A plain baguette was the perfect vehicle for the meat, adding texture but minimal extra flavor.

It’s very rich; we were both satisfied with just a few slices. That leaves enough for tomorrow’s breakfast before our trip to Borough Market by London Bridge. Stay tuned for that post as well as a dish-by-dish review of our dinner at St. John.

2 comments

Phyllis Bregman April 29, 2009 at 4:17 pm

I went to London several times on business while at Wiley and my hotel was around the corner from Harrods. I had some lovely “breakfasts” from the food court and miss the trips more than I miss working.

David April 30, 2009 at 4:10 pm

I could see having breakfast at the food court every day, but I could also see myself quickly going broke in the process.

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