Leg Show

“World’s Costliest Ham Triggers Pork Envy” says the AP headline, in a story that reads much like others lauding shockingly decadent repasts. These hams, going for about $2,100 per lovingly nurtured leg ($160 a pound if you could buy it by the pound, which you can’t. It’s the leg or nothing), are salt-cured for two years and made from free-range pigs that are nightly massaged by hefty old-school circus strongmen ... or something, I couldn’t really pay that much attention to that part of the story, because I was too interested in this:

With Spanish pigs bound for ham glory, diet is everything. The least expensive ham is made from pigs fed on grain, whereas mid-grade hams come from pigs raised on a combination of wheat and acorns.

Then there are Spain’s poshest pigs, which feast exclusively on acorns, producing a rich flavor and oily texture that make the meat a delicacy. Spain’s finest hams are not considered first-rate without an ‘acorn-fed’ stamp on the label.

You mean those little things my dad used to curse as they pinged off his leg while he was mowing the grass? Those useless little nuts? COOL! Using them for feed must pay off; Spanish ham is justifiably famous, and omnipresent in its home country. As the AP story puts it, “In bars and restaurants, legs of ham hanging from the wall are as common as TV sets.” Who knew that the ham there was so good because they feed their pigs acorns? (Note to self: Um, everyone.)

Anyhoo, on the pricey ham itself, I’m with blogger Davin Wilfrid, who on his personal blog Pax Arcana notes that “This ham costs more than four iPhones” and even though the “expansion of the high-end food market has been one of the best side effects of America’s foodie fascination,” a really good Serrano ham from Spain goes for about $25 or $30 a pound and “[t]here is nothing this guy could do to make his hams more than five times better.”

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