We recently took a trip to Spain. And by "we", I mean Cassie and me...without the kids! We walked over 20,000 steps a day, saw many historical sites, and of course ate! The Spanish take their food very seriously. While in Seville, we went on an Iberian Ham Tour, guided by Roger Davies with Epicurean Ways. This delightful tour was a true farm to table experience.
Roger picked us up promptly at 9:30 in the morning and took us in his private car on a scenic drive to a local pig farm about one and a half hours outside of Seville. When I pictured a "pig farm", I envisioned a tightly spaced pig pen with smelly hogs fighting for space. Quite to the contrary, the farm that Roger took us to was a vast, open park.
Here, pigs roam freely around on stretches and stretches of open land. A large man-made lake provides a cool respite on hot days. When they are hungry, the pigs have an ample supply of acorns provided by the many oak trees that dot the farm. Iberian ham, in fact, is distinguished from other hams like Serrano ham because Iberian pigs are raised on a natural acorn fed diet. As a result, Iberian ham is rich in oleic acid, a healthy monounsaturated fat.
After the farm tour, Roger introduced us to the owner of the farm, an exquisitely charming and loquacious lady. She generously prepared a delicious Spanish potato tortilla accompanied with slices of savory Iberian ham. We stuffed ourselves silly then traveled to see where and how the ham was made.
Roger took us to a large warehouse, where thousands of legs of Iberian ham hung to dry. During the curing process, the legs are first placed into a pile of salt for ten days. Then, a generous coating of sunflower is applied. The ham is then hung from hooks in the ceiling for a minimum of two to three years. Yes, I said years. Over the course of that time period, the ham is lovingly tended to, with periodic inspections and reapplications of sunflower oil.
I was amazed by the length of the curing process. While I find it difficult to wait more than a few minutes for my food, the Spanish wait two to three years for their food! I thought of the last time I labored over something for two to three years and it dawned on me that I do have something in common with the Spanish. Just like the Spanish take care of their ham, Cassie and I have nurtured our little baby Cailya for more than two years. Yes, I just compared Cailya to cured ham.
Both child-rearing and cooking are labors of love. In both endeavors, there are trials and tribulations and exercises in patience. In the end, the time spent laboring over the ones you love is more than worthwhile. In the following video, I feature a tasty creamy spinach lentil dish which gently simmers over forty-five minutes. It is definitely worth the wait! Happy Mother's Day!