Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Suffolk Foodie Bit! Suffolk Hams!

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Suffolk Ham Masters.....?

Recently I started following a Facebook page called "Spanish Ham Master".  This is a specialist, trained in the art of carving Iberian Hams.  I was thinking, what have Spanish Hams got that we have to have a trained specialist in just one aspect of Pork serving? 

Looking a little further I noticed the name bellota.  Curious as to the meaning of bellota I did a Google which led me to the Wikipedia article on Jamon Iberico.  Bellota would appear to relate to Black Iberian pigs (or at least 75% cross bred) fed on acorns, bellota.  The process of free range production of the pig takes 48 months on  a strictly controlled diet of ultimately acorns or olives.  The use of the Oak forests (Cork Oak?) on the Spanish/Portuguese border produces the highest grade of this protected Spanish Denomination de origen  product.  A further curing of the ham for 36 months in a dry environement produces a 7 year production lifecycle of the product.  Having had a look at the website associated with the premium product Bellota Ham it retails at £340 per 8.5 kg (£40 per kilo) bone in ham.  Or putting it in time span mode £5.70 per kilo per year from the supplier.  A good figure to keep in mind when comparing different production styles and deciding whether a product is value for money!

So Suffolk Hams, how do they compare as specialist product? Well for a start the end product is a pickled smoked ham that is then cooked.  The process probably  reflects the differences in climate between Suffolk and the Iberian Oak forests.  The process is not geared to a hard and fast Denominacion de Origen regulation, since technically it is a cure so could be produced anywhere.  Ultimately the  pickling process may contain beer, stout or cider.  Recipes for Suffolk Black Hams also include molasses in the mix.  The time for production of the ham takes approximately 10 weeks.  The Rick Stein Food Heroes Supplier Emmetts of Peasenhall     has been offering Hams for sale since 1840.  Doing the production time span figure for the retailer again works out at approximately £27 per kilo assuming using pigs killed that year.  

Why is Suffolk Hams not as visible as Iberico Hams in the Supermarkets?  The Suffolk Ham is an artisan product.  Admittedly more expensive to the consumer, and not as labour intensive.  A real case for celebrating a premium product?  Definitely so!  Denominacien de Origen status, why not? 

I may have made a good case for why Spanish Acorn Ham appears to be good value for money.  However, it needs to be remembered that they are different products and have different seasonal time for eating.  Wouldn't it be great to have a Suffolk "tapas" of air cured Hams, pickled onions, line caught herring roll mops washed down with Suffolk Cider, Dutch Gin or hedgerow liquors!

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