Iberian ham introduction

In Spain when we buy a ham we don’t mess around. We buy a whole leg and put it in the kitchen. There’s nothing better than this and it’s usually done in Christmas.

The ham has to be Iberian race and fed with acorns. This is the best ham in the world. There may be some variations in quality depending on the diet but the breed must always be the same.Within the world of Iberian hams there are some differences and these are according to the type of food and the lifestyle of the animals.

The lowest range of the Iberian pork ham is the one in which the animal has been fed with all kinds of food, normally feed, and also has not enjoyed a breeding in freedom. These hams have affordable prices that can be around 200 euros.

Medium quality Iberian hams are those animals that have received a combination of food. Natural foods such as acorns and also some feed. They are animals that spend a part of their life free in the countryside and another part stabled in farms. They are very good quality hams and their prices can be around 300 or 400 euros.

The best Iberian ham comes from animals raised in freedom feed with natural foods and mainly acorns. These animals have a very active life and this makes the quality of their meat exceptional. The prices of these hams are between 500 and 700 euros.

Iberian ham is bred in a specific area of Spain where the natural environment and climate conditions are key. The “Spanish Dehesa” is located throughout the western part of Spain on its border with Portugal. It is a very specific ecosystem in which oaks and holm oaks abound.

When you buy the ham leg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The characteristics of a Spanish iberian ham are clear to see. The hoof must be totally black and the cut of the piece with a drawing like in V. These are the most obvious signs that we are dealing with an Iberian ham.

When you buy a whole leg you need a support to put it on. Once you have the ham in place, you start cutting the thickest part, i.e. with the hoof facing upwards. To cut the ham you need a knife with a large, sharp blade. The ham should be cut in thin slices and each slice should be approximately the size of our tongue so that it is deposited on it and we can extract all the flavor.

An Iberian ham is anatomically wrapped in its own fat but the fat must also be infiltrated into the muscle. That’s why in the cut we must observe the streaks of fat along the meat.

I invite you to try this ham because it is one of the most delicious things you can eat in this world. I  remember the first time a client from Australia told me that he did not know what Iberian ham was. He almost gave me something, it was very sad. Soon we solved it with a good plate of ham cut with a knife. I think that customer will remember it for a lifetime.

Pintxo tasting tour

 

 

 

This recipe of roasted pigeon is from one of the best cheffs in San Sebastian, Juan Mari Arzak. If you like this kind of food don´t forget to taste it next time you come back.

Ingredients for 4 people

4 pigeons, 4 tablespoons of sunflower oil, salt, and white pepper.

For the Porto and liquorice sauce
The carcasses of the pigeon and the legs, 1 onion, 2 leeks, 1 spoonful of chopped thyme, 1 spoonful of chopped parsley, 1 dl of red port, 1 dl of red wine, 1 stick of liquorice, half a liter of water, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, salt and pepper

In addition

2 william pears and some sprigs of fresh thyme.

Elaboration

For the roasted pigeon

Salt and pepper the pigeons inside and out. Remove the carcasses of the pigeons by removing the breasts. Sauté the breasts and legs with sunflower oil in a casserole and then bake them at 220 degrees for 5 or 6 minutes. Then, take them out and let them rest for a few minutes.

For the Porto and liquorice sauce

Brown the carcasses in the oil. Once browned, add the chopped vegetables and herbs. Sauté and add port and red wine as well as the liquorice stick. Then add water and let it reduce to half its volume. Strain it and put it on the fire again until it reduces by half again. Finally, add salt and pepper and strain without crushing.

Presentation

Heat the pigeon breasts for a few moments (au gratin in the oven). Chop the pears and brown them in a pan with butter. Place the breasts alternating with the previously browned pears.Pour the sauce over them and decorate with thyme sprigs.

 

This is the way i do it at home with the wings and the legs.

roasted pigeon

 

 

The Hotel Palacio de Aiete is located on one of the hills of the city in front of La Concha Bay. It is a very quiet residential area, perfect for those clients who are looking for a relaxing time at the hotel and do not want to hear disturbing noises at night. It is an ideal place to relax and rest whether you come on vacation or for work.

It is a 4 star hotel and its rooms and facilities are brand new. Modern and pleasant designs for the comfort of the client. The mattresses are of the highest quality and even have a cart with different pillows.

One of the things that attracts the most attention is the amount of services offered. For example, the jakuzzi located on the upper terrace where you can relax and enjoy a drink while you enjoy the view. Also, they have a masseur service for total relaxation.

Another free service is the fitness room, where customers can maintain their workout routine. Exercise bikes, treadmills, rowing machines will test the most demanding athletes.

Free parking for all your customers. Yes, that’s right, the hotel has the courtesy to offer the client parking for the entire duration of his stay in San Sebastian.

It also has a lounge club and a convention room, both of which have been completely renovated to offer maximum comfort.

Bera Bera Restaurant

The hotel’s restaurant is inspired by traditional Basque cuisine so the quality is guaranteed. Always fresh products of the highest quality to satisfy the most demanding palates.

In short, the Palacio de Aiete hotel is the perfect place to spend a few days in San Sebastian. In addition, they give you a 15% discount if you book through the website. I leave here the link for those who may be interested.

https://hotelpalaciodeaiete.com/es/

 

Wood pigeon or wild dove introduction.

In these latitudes autumn is a special season for diffrent rasons. At this time the trees lose their leaves and the days become shorter. It is the time to enjoy nature, and hunting is a very popular activity in the Basque Country.

The wild pigeon hunting (“paloma torcáz” or “paloma bravía” in spanish) is already like a tradition and since ancient times the pigeons completes its migration in autumn. From the north of Europe to the south where they have a better climate. When they arrive in the Basque Country they have to cross the Pyrenees and their passage is concentrated in some specific points. Through the coast, Fuenterrabia and Irún. Through the mountains, from Urrugne to Sara, Etxalar and Roncesvalles. Where they pass depends on meteorological factors such as wind. With very strong southern winds they are concentrated on the coast. On the contrary with the north winds they cross the mountain areas.

Basque hunter with pigeons

The pigeon in the Basque cuisine

The wild pigeon is very appreciated in the Basque gastronomy because it is a very wild animal which feeds mainly on acorns and corn. This makes its meat have a very special texture and taste. It reminds me a lot of the Spanish Iberian ham. It may be because they share the diet of acorns.

They can be cooked in many ways. The most traditional are in their sauce or grilled capucin style. The one I personally like the most is the French Basque style. La Palombe au capucin. It is split into two parts, baked or put on the grill to seal the skin. Once sealed, we proceed to the special part. It is spilled over burning iberian pork fat that finishes cooking the meat. The result is a meat that is well done on the outside but raw and bleeding on the inside. I have to confess that this is one of my best gastronomic discoveries. Every year I have to eat the pigeon like this, even if it is only once a year.

I will share with you this video where you can see the way they cook them at the French Basque. It is very spectacuar.