Welcome ladies and gentleman to the main event of the week! In the category of Culinary Boxing here at Chef’s Mandala, we have weighing in at 15 pounds from Spain, please welcome Jamon Iberico! His opponent, weighing in at 17 pounds from Italy, please welcome Prosciutto di Parma!
LET’S GET READY TO RRRRR…….HAVE A SPIRITED DEBATE ON FOOD!!!
In the Red Corner – JAMON IBERICO
Today’s challenger in the Culinary Boxing cured meat division is often assumed to have black hooves. The reality is that not all Iberian pigs are black footed. And contrary to popular belief, the pigs do not live out their entire lives eating only green acorns. After birth until they hit around 100 lbs, these pigs need a varied diet in order to grow up in a healthy manner. But from then on they are fed a diet of green acorns. This gives the meat a composition that is about 1/3 pure fat. Depending on whether the ham is cut from the shoulder or hindquarters, aging ranges from 28 to 48 months. The more exercise the muscle gets, the tougher the meat can be. But is our challenger tough enough to take on the champ?
In the Blue Corner – PROSCIUTTO DI PARMA
Our champion today is the legendary, the succulent, the ever delicious Italian dry-cured ham! Second only to Parmesan Reggiano , this duo is why Parma is legendary in food. Unlike the challenger, Parma hams can only be made from the hind leg cuts of each pig. There are 11 regions, all close to Parma, that historically have been allowed to make Prosciutto di Parma. Only the Landrace, Duroc and Large White breeds may be used. As with Spanish ham, pigs are fed a specific diet. When they reach a certain size, they are slaughtered and their hind legs are then cured for around 20 months. This is where science meets art. To properly salt each leg so that the meat cures well but is still sweet is the difficult work of a Maestro Salatore. Furthermore these salt masters have been plying their trade since 100 B.C.
- The Play-By-Play
Parmesan Reggiano stands tall and proud, confident both that his quality and annual sales dwarf this upstart Spanish challenger. In contrast, Jamon Iberico munches on a few roasted acorns for a quick burst of energy. The referee starts to review the rules of the fight, but both boxers just wave him along with a “yeah yeah yeah, let’s get going!” kind of gesture.
AND THE WINNER IS….
Prosciutto di Parma is the winner by just one point! Jamon Iberico, while unbelievably delicious, is also much more expensive then the reigning champion. And while there is less of a range in quality among Spanish producers versus Italian ones, this is in part because the Spanish market size is much smaller.