They are not an actress’s or a model’s, nor a footballer’s. The most sought-after legs in Spain are those of salted pork, those universally known as ham, and of the numerous varieties found around Spain the most prestigious is Jabugo ham, a reference for the world’s gourmets.
Those in the know say that the black pig that produces them is a direct descendent of the prehistoric wild boar and that the Romans were the first to praise its persistent, unmistakeable flavour. Whatever the case, Jabugo receives its name from the city of Huelva, which is the centre of its production, although it would be more suitable to talk about the Jamón de Huelva Denomination of Origin, whose domains spread into other provinces such as Badajoz, Cáceres and Córdoba and all the regions of the south where ilexes, cork trees and gall oaks grow.
The vegetation is fundamental, for the pigs that give us this succulent delight are only ever allowed to feed on the fruit of these trees, acorns. The animal’s daily activity is fundamental too, no stress or intensive stockbreeding; to produce a good ham, the animal must live like a king in the country, with nothing more to worry about than feeding and mating.
The climate is also basic: contrary to what one might expect, there is heavy rainfall in the Jabugo area, and despite the latitude the weather is not precisely hot. This means that the hams mature better in their curing process (in preserve) for between 18 and 36 months.
As unforgettable as the Jabugo’s flavour are the beautiful surroundings where it is produced. The Sierra de Aracena hills in Huelva are a marvellous area just a few kilometres from the fantastic, almost virgin beaches and dunes of Moguer and Palos de la Frontera, the place from whence Christopher Columbus sailed for America in 1492.
Columbus surely did not tire of it in his preparations, and today scientists have explained why: a Jabugo ham awakens up to 20 different flavours on our palate, sufficient stimulation for one to want to go off to discover a continent.