Great Britain - Jose Sol
Marlborough, February 28, 2021
Jamón Ibérico is his mission
" Jamón Ibérico is the best ambassador of Spanish Gastronomy "

Jamón Ibérico has become one of the world’s most exclusive gastronomic products, proudly taking its place alongside caviar, white truffle and foie gras. But in the world of hams, not all Jamón Ibérico is equal.

In 2014 the Spanish government introduced a labelling system to make it easier for the consumer to understand the quality of products from Iberian pigs. A coloured bracelet close to the hoof represents a grading system. Officier Jose Sol, a leading international expert in Jamón Ibérico, explains how to separate one Jamón from another.

White label: Jamón de cebo Ibérico
This Jamón comes from cross breeding of white pigs and Iberian pigs. By law the cross should be a minimum 50% Ibérian. These pigs are kept on farms in cramped conditions and may never see the light of the sun. They are fed cereals and legumes.

Green label: Jamón cebo de campo Ibérico
Still a minimum 50% cross breed, these pigs live in more space on a small-holding and are allowed outdoors. They are fed cereals and legumes, but can also eat some natural roots, herbs and sometimes even acorns. This is reflected in the quality and more intense flavour of the Jamón.

Red label: Jamón de bellota Ibérico
Another 50% minimum cross breed, but these pigs live in absolute freedom throughout their life in large open space. They eat everything they can forage from the ground, including, during the last three months of their lives plenty of acorns. There is a now a big difference in flavour, intensity and quality.

Black label: Jamón de Bellota 100% Ibérico
The crown jewel of Jamón Ibérico. This is no cross breed; father and mother are both Iberian pigs. This is the unique Jamón that can be called Pata Negra by law and offers an incredible food experience. The pigs live a fully free-range life, able to roam across vast areas. They live in the Dehesa, otherwise known as the Mediterranean forest; a special ecosystem of over two million hectares.

During the Montanera season – between November and March when the pigs forage for acorns - these pigs might walk as many as 14km, eating as much as 8kg of acorns every day.

At least four different flavours may be appreciated from the different parts of this Jamón - the Jarrete, Maza, Babilla and Punta.

The perfect pairing for Jamón Ibérico is Manzanilla, a variety of Fino sherry made near Sanlúcar de Barrameda, in the province of Cádiz, but it may be enjoyed with many different drinks - even Gin & Tonic.

Jose Sol
The amount of time Jose has spent talking about Jamón around the world has earned him a nickname - the Messiah of Jamón.

It was during one such trip that he was introduced to the Chaîne, when he was hired for an event by the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Seoul, South Korea. He has been an active member of the Bailliage of Great Britain ever since.

Since moving to the UK in 2010 Jose has made it his mission to introduce Jamón Ibérico to the best kitchens across the country.

He is proud to have carved for the Royal Family, the Prime Minister and many celebrities and events, including a concert at the Royal Albert Hall and at the ‘theatre of dreams’ - the legendary Old Trafford.

“Jamón Ibérico is the best ambassador of Spanish Gastronomy, and I feel really lucky to work with this product around the world,” Jose says.

Amanda Roberts
Editor, Revue internationale de la Chaîne

Ed. This article was first published in the 2020 edition of the Revue internationale de la Chaîne