The Most Expensive Ham in the World

jamón iberico bellota

I’d been reading about the stuff for years. A mythical ham cured for years from the meat of the black-hooved Iberian pig, left alone to wander among the oak woods of Salamanca foraging for acorns — “bellotas” in Spanish.

If you’ve ever been to Spain, you know they’re serious about their ham. One of the most popular restaurants in Madrid is the Museo de Jamón — the “Ham Museum”. And in a country that takes its ham this seriously, iberico bellota is king. For years if you wanted some, you would have to travel to Spain. Only recently was it cleared for export to the United States, with our stringent regulations against the importing of long-fermented, unpasteurized things.

Guy carving iberico bellota

Iberico bellota is one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth. It will make you forget that proscuitto de Parma you used to think was so good. I love to watch the guy carving slices from the whole ham in the traditional manner (it is never sliced on a machine like proscuitto, so it always has a rustic, thicker quality). The meat explodes on your tongue in layers of flavor — nutty and dense, elegant and briny — and the fat is unctuous and silky. I must stop talking about it now or I’m going to have to excuse myself…

It is, indeed, the most expensive ham in the world — I pay $135 a pound for it, and am grateful for the privilege. I don’t buy it often, and usually get a quarter pound for $35. It’s plenty. You might have trouble finding this stuff. If I were you, I would make like a detective and do whatever you had to do to pick up its trail. If you live in L.A., I get mine at Surfa’s in Culver City. You could likely get it at the Spanish Table in Seattle (I know there’s a few of you out there). Probably Dean & DeLuca’s or someplace like that in NYC. You could buy a whole one online from for $1,400. (Let me know… I might go in on it with you.)

A recipe?

Buy some iberico bellota. And eat it. Serves 1. (You won’t want to share.)

If you have to do something to it, get the best crusty loaf of bread you can buy, get the best butter you can buy… tear off a piece, spread a little butter, top with iberico bellota, and sprinkle with a little Maldon salt.

In heaven, iberico bellota will grow on trees like figs.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Geoffrey Emerson
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 11:22:57

    When I was in France even the ham in the markets left the normal stuff here for dead, but you could walk into the deli and buy a whole leg hanging off the ceiling with the hoof STILL attached, with a little cup under neath to catch the drippings 🙂


  2. Trackback: My Ham | skinny girls & mayonnaise

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