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Oct 21, 2012 10:15 AM

Can someone give me the low-down on Iberico ham?

I've wanted to try this for quite some time but won't be getting back out to Europe for at least another six months. I recently searched and found a tapas restaurant here (we're in New Mexico) that sells it for about $40 an ounce, which is pretty damn pricey. Does anyone know of a place such as Whole Foods or similar that sells it in the states? My wife mentioned that it might be illegal/against the USDA to sell it here, but then how can I explain the restaurant which carries it?

Thanks for any info. If I can't find it somewhere for a better price I will likely bite the bullet and order it at the Spanish place, unless you guys advise against shelling out that much cash for it.

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  1. Is that at El Meson? If so, I can see them charging $40. You can buy it for about $9 an ounce, so there is definitely a fair bit of markup going on, dunno if you'll find it cheaper in a restaurant though. If you don't mind eating it at home, this place in Santa Fe has some:

    1. It has been legal since 2005 to sell Iberico ham (which comes from the "pata negra," meaning "black hoof" pig) in the US, although it didn't make its way over here until a couple of years later. Not all Iberico ham is equal. The most prized and expensive is the Iberico de bellota, which comes from pigs that feast exclusively on the acorns of cork oaks. Lesser grades of Iberico ham come from pigs whose diet consists of a combination of acorns and grain or of grain alone. So it's important to determine what you're getting--true bellota or something lesser.

      The ham is in limited supply in the US, being found primarily in restaurants that serve tapas and cater to a well-heeled clientele and also in gourmet shops, primarily in large cities. A few places do sell it via mail order. One is La Tienda, a mail order business in Williamsburg, VA that specializes in Spanish foods. They currently sell the Iberico de bellota for $54 for three ounces (and lower grades of Iberico for less), which works out to $288/lb. Assuming that the tapas restaurant in your area uses bellota--and I wouldn't make that assumption without asking--you would be paying almost 2 1/2 times what you could buy it for through mail order. If the restaurant is using a cheaper grade of Iberico, then the mark-up is obviously much higher.

      It's a terrific ham, with an especially silky texture to the fat, but only you can decide if it is worth the price to try it.

      Update: I see after posting that ratbuddy beat me to the punch and posted a link to a closer source in New Mexico that is cheaper than La Tienda for the bellota. Again, I would inquire to be sure that it's true bellota and not the ham from pigs being fattened up on a combination of acorns and grain. It if is (and maybe even if it isn't), I'd go for it!

      1. It is legal but very expensive. There were several reasons. There was an expensive investment to be made because they had to build a new USDA slaughterhouse and some other import things. Most Italian proscuitto comes from Danish-raised pigs and these were Spanish pigs and that I think there was extra red tape.

        In the end, it is very, very delicious pig. A few places in Los Angeles have it including one that sells it by the ounce.

        1. Thank you all for the great responses and info. I think next weekend the wife and I will pack up some wine, fresh bread, cheese, and head down to Santa Fe to buy some ham from Spanish Table, then have a nice fall picnic. Also, I've found places online that sell whole legs for about $24/lb, so I was contemplating ordering one of those and getting a group of people to pitch in for a nice party.

          Thanks again!