Last Thursday, Wingtip club members were treated to an impromptu duet between two heavyweights of the craft ham scene: strips of glistening Jamon Iberico and drams of Del Maguey’s Iberico Pechuga Mezcal. Chef Matt Paine carved slivers of the stuff [below] and Wingtip cheesemonger Matt Gill gave us the background on this finest of hams.
“This is the last full-blooded Iberico herd in Spain,” says Matt Gill. “Every other farm will crossbreed it with wild boars [which] make it a little heartier. They’re not lazy pigs. They’re actually exercised throughout their entire lives.”
“The ‘de Bellota’ just means that the last two weeks or so the pigs are eating nothing but acorns. There’s [another] variety that eats nothing but figs. When [full-blooded Iberico pigs] finish on the acorns, you have a higher marbling in the meat, and when you eat the fat and the actual meat it lowers your bad cholesterol and raises your good cholesterol.”
“When you cut [with a]
prosciutto knife, you shouldn’t have to put a whole lot of pressure on it. [The ideal thickness] depends on the person. Some guys say, ‘I want it tissue-paper thin.’ But since it’s something that’s served as an amuse in Spanish cuisine, the Spanish do it a little thicker.”
Mezcal de Pechuga, “They hang the breast of an animal [in the still],” explains Wingtip bartender Brandon Bigalke. It’s usually chicken, but, “It doesn’t have to be a chicken. It varies. It could be a rabbit. It’s just a gamey animal. So this is actually a Jamon Iberico hung in the still, in Pechuga fashion, where the mezcal passes through it.” ***