British Columbia

Go hog wild with this unique ham 'on par with caviar and truffles'

Our food columnist profiles a unique type of Spanish ham that goes way beyond what you would take in your lunch box in elementary school.

Iberico de Bellota gets unique flavour from what the pigs eat and from a special curing process

You can find this legendary ham in the Lower Mainland at several specialty grocery stores. (Isaphoto2016/Shutterstock)

On The Coast food columnist Gail Johnson says she has discovered the world's greatest ham — and that's no baloney.

Johnson told On The Coast guest host Matthew Lazin-Ryder that while Spain may be more famous for dishes like paella and patatas bravas, Iberico ham may in fact be the greatest ham in the world.

"This is not any ham, and it's certainly nothing like the stuff you might have had in your lunch-box sandwich back in elementary school," Johnson said.

"There are a few different types or grades of Iberico ham, depending on what the animals eat, and it's Iberico de Bellota that's the finest, on par with caviar and truffles."

Johnson says Iberico de Bellota gets its unique flavour largely from what the pigs eat from October to January: acorns.

The curing and ageing of the hams is just as important as the flavour, she says. The ham legs are first chilled overnight then covered in Andalusian sea salt.

From there, they're washed and hung to dry, and the final part of the curing process can take up to three years.

"The acorns give it a bit of a nutty and woodsy taste, but it's also a little bit sweet," she said. "There's a real depth of flavour that lingers, almost like a fine wine, and the meat itself kind of melts in your mouth."

In the Lower Mainland, ham lovers can find Iberico ham at specialty butcher shops and delis like Oyama Sausage on Granville Island.

Another option is a new specialty Spanish grocery store, Lola & Miguel on Vancouver's Pender Street, which also carries a variety of other Spanish foods like olives, rice and canned fish.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast