Yesterday I was at my local market and noticed they were merchandising whole Serrano hams for a Christmas gift. Validated food gifting is an important cultural custom here in France. Also made me recognize the growing global popularity of Spanish hams.
I learned about Spanish ham, initially Ibèrico hams, when I attended an English language immersion class in Spain. One of the Spaniards attending the course, gave his closing presentation about the difference between Ibèrico ham and the finest Italian prosciutto. There are two major differences: 1.) Black Iberian pigs are free-range and feast on acorns in the last weeks of their lives which yields a unique, sweet, nutty flavor ham; and 2.) The Spanish cure their hams for a longer period of time.
Several years ago, I read an article about the W.H.O., specifically their International Agency for Research on Cancer, publishing an analysis linking colorectal cancer to the consumption of meats (processed or red). Consequently, the Chinese with their insatiable appetite for pork products and rising incomes, began coveting Spanish ham as healthy. No added preservatives or colorings (sometimes metal) in comparison to their homegrown pork products. Thus, the window of opportunity opened for Spanish hams being in demand worldwide. Overnight Ibèrico hams became the most expensive commercially, boneless approximately $400 and bone-in somewhere between $1,200 to $1,400 (over $70 per pound).
Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année!