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 18 pounds from Spain, please welcome Jamon Iberico de Bellota! His opponent, weighing in at 15 pounds also from Spain, please welcome Jamon Iberico de Cebo!
LET’S GET READY TO RRRRR…….HAVE A SPIRITED DEBATE ON FOOD!!!
In the Red Corner – BELLOTA
Today’s champ is an Iberian ham named after the acorn of the Gambel oak tree. His full name is Jamón Ibérico de Bellota. Black Spanish pigs are raised on a diet that includes these rich acorns. Similar to their love of truffles, these pigs can easily consume over 20 lbs a day of these tree nuts. Over double the price of their corn fed prosciutto cousins, Bellota pig legs can be cured for up to 2 years! During this process the saturated fats laced throughout the meat are gradually converted into unsaturated fats (which are much healthier). This an expensive and time consuming process. And that is why only about 5% of all Iberian hams are Jamón Ibérico de Bellota.
In the Blue Corner – CEBO
Today’s challenger is the champ’s lesser known cousin, Jamón Ibérico de Cebo. While not quite as famous, his pricing is more in line with Jamon Serrano (made from Spain’s famous white pigs). However Iberian pigs are always labeled based on the diet they consume. Cebo cured hams are made from pigs raised on standard farm feed (corn, grain, etc). They don’t have the champ’s fancy-pants lifestyle, ranging around mountain pastures and grazing on wild acorns. While our challenger’s texture isn’t quite as buttery as the champ’s, he’s still delicious. And what’s more, slightly cheaper! Much like the champ, our challenger is a relative newcomer to the U.S. market. But while he’s only been legal to import since 2005, today he can be found in many fine Spanish restaurants.
- The Play-By-Play
Both fighters step up to the center of the ring. If it wasn’t for the color of their shorts, you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. With the ringing of the bell they’re off! Shuffling and snorting they circle each other. In spite of their flabby exteriors, each fighter moves gracefully, exhibiting a delicious inner strength.
AND THE WINNER IS….
Bellota! In the end cebo was just a bit dryer, and if you’re going to spend all that money, why not get the real deal??? But if price is an issue, buy some Serrano, Cebo, and Prosciutto di Parma and see which one you like the best! And don’t be afraid Jamon’s dry nature. Add a slice of dry cured ham to a sandwich, salad, or as a part of a charcuterie plate. And now you can even buy a domestic version of this famous Jamon raised on Texas grown acorns!