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Travel in Spain and Portugal

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007



Who would drive 6 hours roundtrip just to purchase a ham? A Portuguese gourmand, for whom a 6 hour return trip is not all work. Badajoz is 3 hours from Lisbon, its shops the nearest purveyors of the one thing the Portuguese will admit is better in Spain—the famed black hooved/pata negra ham. And specifically, it’s the famed Cinco Jotas that is most prized.

What makes this ham unlike all others? Terroir. It comes from compact, shaggy black haired pigs that roam freely under the cork oak of the Extremadura hillsides where they feed on acorns, their preferred fodder, until they have developed just the right balance of fat and muscle. Striations of fat in the meat combine with a nutty flavor to make this the king of jamones. A ham will be carried back home to Portugal to repose on a purpose-built sling from which one can more easily shave the slivers of succulent flesh. And what to accompany it? A few olives from local trees and a glass of Borba tinto from the Alentejo.

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