I won’t be cooking ham ever again since my trip to Spain. I’ve come here to discover new food ideas and have learned the difference between “ham” and the artisan product they make here.
When there’s ham in my kitchen, it doesn’t mean I’m cracking jokes for the camera during a cooking demonstration. I’ve had plenty of people tell me that I’M the ham in the kitchen.
When I’m cooking ham, it’s usually the water-added, brined and salted, bland pork product that is found everywhere in North America. It all tastes the same, there’s no qualifier between different brands or processes. Here in the US, ham is ham.
Most often when I cook with a pork product, it’s bacon. Americans are crazy about the cured meat and I understand why. It’s crispy, it’s crunchy, it’s fatty and smoky. These are the flavors that land on your tongue and light up your brain.
But, bacon has been stripped of most of its flavor also. Bacon is bacon in the U.S., the only difference between brands is the price, not the quality or the WAY it was made.
That’s why I won’t ever be cooking ham again. I’ll be using Jamon from now on.
Spanish jamon is an artisan product that is produced and sold like wine is in France. Jamon in Spain is so much more than just “ham”. Each pig is treated differently, fed different diets, cured and aged in a specific way to give a distinct flavor and texture to each and every piece.
Jamon is not mass-produced like ham is. Jamon comes with the care and cultivation of a unique product which yields the flavor and texture that is characteristic of something produced for quality, not just quantity of output. Cooking with jamon is a greater art than cooking ham.
My new love of Jamon and all the cooking ideas it’s inspired was born out of my discussion with Mark at The Jamon Experience in Barcelona. Mark is a jamon expert who amazed me with the process, care and results involved in producing this signature Spanish food item.
Mark explains that there are three things that dictate the quality of jamon:
- The breed of the pig
- What it eats
- How it is cured
Once you discover the difference between cooking ham and cooking WITH jamon, you’ll never go back to the pig-in-a-can ham again. Jamon is the perfect type of ingredient to add a new outlook on my cooking at home. It’s a better, more flavorful replacement for something I’ve been cooking already, and that’s how I refresh my cooking at home.
When you are confident in HOW to cook, the repeatable and reliable cooking METHODS, then the opportunity to add endless variety to your meals comes with discovering new ingredients to apply those same cooking skills to.
You can join me to stop cooking ham and start cooking with a better product like Jamon, and the other Global Food Finds from my trip when you join me for my FREE online webinar workshop, “International Food Finds: Discovering Global Inspirations for New and Exciting Meals at Home.
Hold your spot in the FREE webinar by clicking HERE.
There are more Cooking Ideas From Spain for you to see in the previous blog post.
Whle living in Spain fell in love with the country, the people and their foods I would love to be able to prepare Tortilla the way they do, it can be eaten hot or cold and looks like a pone of cornbread, and is sliced like a pie. Different ingredients depending on season, availablity of vegetables, local and taste of people. Served in toscas also. Basic tortilla contains onions, garlic, potatoes, olive oil and eggs plus other ingredients as you like!
Don’t overlook the grass fed, free range pork at your local farmers market. I think the taste experience related in an earlier comment about feral pigs on Kauai would be similar. Likewise, the organic uncured ham I bought at my local organic grocery for last Christmas dinner was a totally wonderful taste experience. I think that route would be less expensive than the Jamon.
Chef Todd, Amazingly almost all Old country foods can be found in the US, because we are after all a Nation of immigrants. Here in Louisiana we cook jambalaya similar to the Spanish Paella. Usually made with pork (Jamba), but also with seafood or other meats or sausages. Because of the diverse ethnic groups that came through the port of New Orleans we have French, Italian, Irish, Spanish, Carribean, German, Russian, Polish etc. interestingly, not much Northern European, but you get the idea.
Hi Chef: We are currently in Florence, Italy, living in a nice apartment in the suburbs. I am cooking with local fresh foods in someone else’s kitchen and the whole thing is an adventure I have twice a year while my hubby teaches at the medical school. I’ve brought my own tongs and a few other items from home. I shopped in the small food shops as well as the supermarket which has local, organic and non-organic foods and supplies. Interesting to translate the packages and quantities without measuring cups or spoons. Your method is helping me use what I have in the kitchen and I am getting good at making flavorful chops and roasts and pasta dishes with what’s on hand. Somehow it all tastes better than at home, even better than TJ’s. Must be the water……..
Serrano-like ham is also to be found here, but it’s called Prosciutto, as you probably know. Crudo is uncooked and cotto is cooked. Different flavors for different uses. In the States it’s usually draped around canteloupe, but here it’s for appetizers, cooked and included in salads, wrapped around cheeses or cooked asparagus with a creamy sauce over it, rolled into a flattened piece of meat with a sprig of rosemary and tied into a roast; the list goes on. Amazingly, weight is not as much of a problem here as in the States. Been to Italy? A great experience for gastronomes. Well, back to the cucina. Ciao!
Thanks for the food-postcard from Italy! It’s great to hear of your culinary adventures.
Where do u buy Jamon and how much does it usually cost?
I bought my Jamon in Spain and don’t remember how much it costs. That sounds like one for Google.
How do you afford all that wonderfulness? I have a food budget of $300.00 a month for 2 people! There is no way I could afford $20.00 for one night’s meat !
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to eat great food. It’s HOW you cook it that matters, not WHAT you cook.
We are lucky enough to live on the island of Kauai, where there are many feral, free range pigs. While it is not jamon, we can kill our own pigs humanely and process them any way we want.
Kauai is one of my favorite places on earth, but I’ve never run into a pig that wasn’t buried in the earth with Ti leaves all over it.
I concur! Once you’ve tasted the REAL JAMON!! You will never, ever go back to the other garbage!!!! Pigs in the States are treated SO HORRIBLY CRUEL and it’s no wonder!! I only buy products from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods in order to determine that they are treated with care and love!!!
You’re right, Angela.
I discovered a BIG difference between plain-old ham and the masterpiece that is jamon.