Young and Hungry

How Many Slices of Iberico Bellota Ham Can You Get for $20?

As I was wandering through the makeshift Eastern Market on Sunday, my stomach empty and my wallet full, I noticed the sign at Canales Deli advertising Iberico and Iberico de bellota hams. I asked the guy behind the counter what they were asking for the rare bellota jamon.

"One fifty," he responded.

Momentarily stunned, I repeated the number: "One hundred and fifty dollars a pound?"

He reassured me that you could buy as little as an eighth of a pound.

"How much would that run me?" I asked.

"About $20," he said.

I ordered an eighth of a pound of Iberico de bellota, the highest grade of Iberico ham, given only to those pigs that gain at least a third of their weight from consuming acorns and grasses in the western and southwestern areas of Spain. The slices (pictured above) numbered exactly seven, which comes roughly to $2.85 apiece. (Incidentally, La Tienda is selling some leftover, bone-in bellota hams for $1,395, complete with the black hoof, which is unlawful now that the USDA has forced importers to slice off the pata negra.)

I took the slices home and had them for dinner on Sunday night, along with Epoisses cheese, a crusty baguette, and a glass of Unibroue's La Fin du Monde. I felt like I was enjoying a four-star meal right in front of the telly.

The slices of red, almost purplish bruised ham are unlike anything you'll ever eat. Yes, the cured meat has a nutty flavor, due mostly to the acorns that the small, black-footed pigs eat, but such a simple description does not do the ham justice. Every molecule of that meat has been infused with the forest in which that pig forages; the muscle and the fat almost melt on your tongue, leaving behind both a big buttery flavor and an ineffable sense of the Spanish countryside. It's like you're eating animal, vegetable, and mineral all at the same time.

It's a primal eating experience that should not be missed—at any price.

  • Gina Braden

    Wow. You sold me! Will this be available in the coming weeks, as well?

  • http://2bars3stars.com 2b3s

    I think you're missing a pronoun in the headline.

  • Prosciutto di Parma anyday

    Maybe it reflects more on me than on the Iberico, but I really didn't experience enough of a difference between this and prosciutto di Parma from A. Litteri's to warrant a 500% markup. It was good, but it really wasn't $2.85 per slice good.

    At $20 per pound for the prosciutto and $120 per pound for the Iberico bellota, that means I can enjoy 56 slices for the same price as your 7.

    Though I suppose that's because I'm not factoring in the healthcare costs associated with eating six times as much deliciousness...

  • Prosciutto di Parma anyday

    Oops. Quick math correction. 7x6 = 42 slices, not 56.

    My bad.

  • Tim Carman

    2b3s: Thanks for catching the error!

    Prosciutto di Parma: I love PdP, but it doesn't taste anything like Iberico de bellota. Two different flavors altogether. It may be that you just like the PdP better. But I also wonder if you've had bellota. It's different than some of the Ibericos you can find. It's the highest grade of Iberico.

  • Prosciutto di Parma anyday

    Can't say for sure whether I had bellota, but in the interest of accuracy I'd definitely be willing to give it a go...if someone else were footing the bill.

  • Tim Carman

    Oh, Gina: Welcome to Y&H!

    You should be able to get the bellota at Canales for awhile. At $150 a pound, I don't think it's flying off the shelves!
    -Tim

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  • ront

    i've just ordered meself some jamon.....both the bellota and cebo...cebo being the cheaper normal stuff.
    i have to say....this pata negra is way better than prosciutto di parma.

  • Steven

    I live in Chicago & discovered the Iberico Bellota @ Fox & Obel here in town... their price is $179.99 per pound, so your New York rates are a deal!! 😉 but as a culinary school alum & foodie, I'll attest that there is nothing like this ham... comparing the BEST pdp to it would be like comparing dry-aged prime beef to bresaola... it's just not comparable. 5 slices ran me $18, but every time I go, I laugh with the guys behind the counter & ask to "taste" a slice again to make sure it's really what I want... I advise each of u do the same- u won't regret it!

  • Alfonso

    I'm from Spain and I am freaked out about the prices you are paying for those slices.
    Here, in Spain a good one costs 70 euros a kilogram.
    I recommend all of you to taste it, It's undescriptible.
    For those who say that PDP is the same thing and tastes the same, I think you haven't really bought a real spanish jam.

    I hope you to come to Spain and discover the beauties of my country. And you should try the Sobaos (I'm obsessed with Sobaos El Macho)

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