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Apr 2, 2008 01:42 AM

Paul Heathcotes Grado & Pesto

has anyone been to tbhis place ? i received a prosletysing paul heathcote update regarding iberico ham and Grado. it seemed only fair to respond, please see below. no answer; surprise, surprise.

whilst on the subject of Mr Heathcotes establishments, there is a Pesto outlet in the Trafford centre and the choice is between this and Carluccios. any opinions ?


Subject: Iberico

Dear Mr Heathcote,

I read with great interest your latest newsletter regarding the Jamon iberico available at Grado

Please could you confirm if the pigs are 100% Iberico breed, the name of the producer and how long the legs are matured for.

Also whether they are true bellotta i.e. how long they have spent outside free range foraging for acorns if at all.

Lots if ham is classified as Iberico yet only 5% truly fulfils the conditions to deserve the name

Yours faithfully

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  1. Havnt been to Pesto - and, having recently dissed Olive Press on these pages, I'm not overly keen to try. Carluccio's is pretty good - for what it is.

    BTW, the Wikipedia article on Jamon Iberico records there's three grades on ham which is approved under Spain's DoC regulations - the lowest grade allowing the pigs to be grain fed, rather than acorn foragers.

    Jay Rayner, in his recent Observer review, didn't criticise the ham in terms of quality - but did criticise it being machine cut. He's right.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Harters

      the recebo is on its way out as its too easy to manipulate leaving us with the 2 basic distinctions of Iberico ham. the bellota and the non-bellota.

      the bellota are the fattest greediest pigs which are released into the dehesas in november to graze freely on acorns and grass until february. they are usually 100% pure iberico breed.

      the standard jamon iberico are industrially reared with some access out doors but not free range and fed grain. they are often (naughty naughty spanish) 50% duroc and 50% iberico. they are almost always classified as jamon iberico.

      i cannot lay my hands on mr heatcotes email update but it did wax lyrical about acorns and i think there is a popular misconception that 100% of jamon iberico is acorn fed and available year round rather than 5% and generally available for 3 months (the acorn season). i wondered if mr heathcote was aware of this.

      back to tommi miers again and a cooks tour of spain which is about the only cookery prgram worth watching (maybe great british menu with the sound down; Jenni Bond please go back to royal blathering and leave the food alone)

      1. re: pecandanish

        Now I have to admit to being confused ...

        Why would jamon iberico only be available for three months of the year? It's hung for a long time, so seasons don't apply.

        Also, are all the jamon iberico pigs (the proper ones) slaughtered after their first season eating acorns? ie. at less than a year old? I ask this, because whilst jamon itself isn't seasonal, I would have thought that the eating of acorns is, and if the pigs are not slaughtered when the acorns run out, how can they be 100% acorn fed?

        Sorry if I'm being dense or just confusing everyone else now ...

        1. re: Theresa

          firstly i have to offer a full and unequivocal apology to mr heathcote as he has totally answered the questions as can be seen below and is taking ham from Joselito based in Jabugo (in popular myth the village is the birthpace of iberico) who are an excellent producer and one of my favourites.

          Joselito has been the suppl;ier of choice used by such luminaries as ferran Adria, Joel Robuchon, Davide Scomparin.

          as a result of mr heathcotes response below i need a recipe for humble pie

          regarding your questions of acorns and seasonality, for most producers the processing of the pigs continues throughout the year so the only pigs put down which can be classified as jamon iberico bellota will be those which have eaten acorns which only fall from the trees for 3 months every year. (BTW they dont just eat acorns, they eat grass and anything else which is lying around on the ground)

          the pigs are put down when they are at least 18 months old, so born in summer Year 1, released Autumn Year 2 and put down Spring Year 3 once the acorns are finished. so there is only a finite season for acorn fed pigs and these account for max. 5% of total production.

          the other 95% is Jamon iberico but not acorn fed and not (in the main) outdoor reared or 100% iberico

          hopefully this helps and apologies once again to mr heathcote.

          From: Paul Heathcote
          Subject: RE: Iberico


          Many thanks for your email – I will try and answer your questions as follows.

          • Jamon is 100% Iberico from a supplier named Joselito – the pigs are free roaming. They are not full bellota but recebo which I am sure you know have a supplement of some cereal. They are cured for 2/3 years and yes they do roam around the whole of their lives.

          • You are right - it does take very little for a ham to be classified as Iberico and there is a huge range of pigs with Iberico breeding, as I am sure you know a ham can be called Iberico Bellota with only a small amount of Iberico breeding and then the pig can be kept enclosed and fed a small amount of acorns to the end of its life.

          • In my opinion what makes Iberico hams so special is the way the fat is marbled throughout the meat making it soft and melting; the only way this happens if the pig is allowed to free roam and the fat is allowed to lubricate the muscles as they roam foraging for acorns.

          • In my opinion the Jabugo recebo ham is better than many full bellota hams and I am confident that the Joselito ham is one of the finest you will get anywhere in the world.

          Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any further assistance.

          Kind regards

          1. re: pecandanish

            Sorry to labour the point, and you have clarified some things, but I'm still a bit confused - you say that "there is a popular misconception that 100% of jamon iberico is acorn fed and available year round rather than 5% and generally available for 3 months (the acorn season)".

            If the jamon is cured for 2-3 years, then surely it has to be available to eat all year round, not just in the acorn season ...?

            1. re: Theresa


              I don't know enough about the particular Iberico process (and would love to learn more), but there has to be something in what you say. The curing and maturation is, surely, designed to make a "long life" product which doesnt then quickly "go off".

              If a pig is slaughtered at the end of the acorn season and is then left to mature for exactlytwo years, it will be available for sale at the end of the then acorn season (and will then have a long shelf life). I assume that any sensible producer would allow some hams to mature for longer giving continuous supply. But perhaps not.

      2. re: Harters

        A bit of checking seems to reveal that Pesto is NOT part of the Heathcote empire. No mention of it on the Group website so, unless he's an investor in the Pesto "brand" (they have another branch in Manchester), I may have dissed them unfairly.

        But only partially unfairly. Tapas I understand as a concept. Mezze I understand as a concept. An Italian tapas mezze restaurant I do not.

        1. re: Harters

          if enough 100% pure iberico acorn fed outdoor reared animals were put down at the end of the acorn season then the hams could be brought out of maturation throughout the subsequent years and there would be a constant supply.

          However as total 100% acorn reared iberico pig production is far smaller than total demand, a large amount of the jamon iberico on the market is not 100% pure iberico acorn fed outdoor reared.

          also the entire industrail production system (breeding, rearing, slaughter, processing) needs to continue for 12 months of a year rather than for 3 months when the outdoor reared acorn fed animals are ready to be processied.