Jamon, Jamon!

August 1, 2008 at 3:15 am (Uncategorized)

I’ve been fortunate in this eating life to experience some of the world’s great taste sensations… truffles, oysters, stinky cheese, and now, finally, Jamon Iberico. Only available in Australia for just over a year, Jamon Iberico is as artisanal a pork product as the swine is capable of producing. I love my oink oink, and this is the foodie equivalent of pig heaven.

Where did I sample this gastronomic delight? At the opening of the Jamon Bar, of course. What a fantastic idea: MuMu Grill has just opened a long narrow bar to one side of the main dining area, and there you may gaze upon a side of Jamon Iberico that will leave your taste buds damp with desire. This porky pig is no ordinary swine; at about $500 per kilo, a couple of slices is going to set you back about $25. But it’s worth it. It melts in your mouth. Eating it is one of those genuine food epiphanies, where your soul rushes into your mouth and riots there. Joy. Pure food joy.

What’s not to love about the fact that this unique cured meat is so particular to its region – close to the border between Spain and Portugal – as well as to its hog: Iberico is from the relatively rare black pig, and these Iberian beauties are fed on acorns, the flavour of which seeps into the fatty folds of piggy flesh and the properties of which incredibly contribute to more than half the fat content of Iberico being the Good Kind (as in, the same kind of fat found in olive oil). Don’t you love it when someone says fat is good for you? Brilliant!

It sounds like a pretty idyllic life. If you’re going to be a pig, this is not a bad pig to be: gorgeous Spanish fields in which to roam freely, oak groves in which to push one’s curious hairy snout, and acorns on which to feast…ahhh… but for that whole inevitable slaughter thing, I think it sounds grand. I also love the fact that the 3 year curing process is so stunningly pure and simple – temperature control is critical, and maintained by so simple a tool as opening and closing the window. That’s skill for you, and no amount of money or technology or commercial imperative has figured out a way to fast-track this system. Three years. In it for the long hog, I mean, haul.

As I was chasing down every morsel of cured meat in the place with a really unseemly zeal, I stopped just long enough to take in the main restaurant and apprise myself of its philosophy. I even got to have a quick chat with the owner and head chef, Craig Macindoe, because I’m a pushy little grazer that way. I’d have made a fine Iberian pig. They have a whole sustainability focus on their meat at MuMu, favouring top of the line organic. They also make their own woodfired bread daily – is there anything more comforting and delicious than homemade bread straight from the oven? The answer, in case you’re wondering, is no, and I say this with the authority of someone who has made her own bread many times. It is one of the most nurturing things I can imagine. Oh, and once I’d inhaled every last skerrick of Iberico, I proceeded to hoover whatever was going from their specialist butcher, Pino Tomini-Foresti, whose salamis and cured meats made me too greedy for appropriate manners at table. Needless to say I think I’ve found my new pig pen.

P.S. My friend Anna, who’s currently living in Barcelona (lucky bitch) and maintains the wonderful foodie blog Barcelona Food Girl, has been in-swine-situ, and has this to say.

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