What you need to know about the world's most expensive ham

Not all jamon iberico is created equal

 

By Katka Lapelosová, 10Best.com/USA Today

February 12, 2020

 

When you walk into Cinco Jotas in Spain, the first thing you see is a pig leg, tan and crimson, sitting on the front counter. It’s suspended on a carving stand, with its black hoof pointed away from the carver, who uses a long, thin knife to slice the meat.

 

Slicing jamón (Spain's beloved ham) is no joke; it’s a rigorous process and is reserved only for the truly skilled. The jamón carver at Cinco Jotas was intensely focused, her eyes never leaving the leg of meat before her. She sliced 2-inch cuts with the swiftness of a ninja – fast and thin and uniform in size. She’d whip out a plate of meat in a matter of minutes, then move on to the next order.

 

I was mesmerized by her capabilities, and needed to try what she was serving for myself. Sitting at a table for one, I ordered a veritable feast: 25 shrimp laying on a bed of salt, triangles of Pajarete Gran Reserva cheese, typical Catalan toasted bread topped with a light tomato paste and olive oil, a dish of garlicky olives and nuts and, of course, ham.

 

In America, cured pork products are relatively limited. You can usually find prosciutto to go along with your cheese board, but Spain is a culinary fantasy land for lovers of cured meat; jamón is everywhere and comes in innumerable forms. Walk down any street in Barcelona and you’ll find pig legs hanging in the window, ripe for the slicing, and sausage parties any night of the week.

 

Up until recently, tourists could even attend the Jamón Experience, which may have been an informative introduction to the meat, but felt like a Disney-fied display of pork.

 

Cinco Jotas – arguably the most famous of all jamón producers and one that's been around for over 140 years – has an entirely separate menu for jamón, seven choices with prices ranging from around €9 for a half portion to €25 for a full portion. I settled on a €13 half portion of caña de lomo natural.

 

So what makes Jamón Ibérico so special and expensive? Which parts of the pig are the best? Which are the least coveted? Here’s a breakdown of the seven items on Cinco Jotas’ carving menu to get a better idea of what you’re ordering when you go to Spain.

 

Jamón ibérico ...

 

Paleta ...

 

Caña de lomo ...

 

Caña de presa ...

 

Chorizo ...

 

Morcón chorizo ...

 

Salchichón ...

 

more, including photos, links

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