Perhaps the most iconic meat from Spain is Serrano ham, a cured ham that originated in the mountainous regions of Spain. Traditionally made by salt-curing a leg of pork in a wooden shed for at least a year, the ham has an intense flavor and firm texture. Many refer to this treat as “pata negra,” or the “black leg,” since the leg is indeed black in color. When someone says the ham is “de pata negra,” you know you are eating the real thing.
It is traditional to have this ham at family gatherings or during the holidays. The ham is best served very thinly sliced. On festive occasions it is cut straight from the whole cured leg displayed on a stand or platter, the slices snatched immediately by hungry observers. Because it is cured, this salty greatness can be eaten raw, but of course many recipes ask for this special ham.
First published October 2014