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Connoisseurs go mad for £1,000 ham

Pure Iberian porker's leg at a price you can't afford

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Aficionados of pure Iberian ham are apparently fighting to get their laughing gear round one of the few legs of 2006 Alba Quercus Reserve - a jamón ibérico puro hewn from acorn-fed* porkers and cured for two years - which goes on sale next year at a reserve price of £1,000 a leg.

For those of you not au fait with Spanish ham, the acorn-fed purebred Iberian pig yields the mutt's nuts of ham - considered vastly superior to the jamón serrano culled from grain-fed pigs, often crossbred with British or US varieties.

Manuel Maldonado's Alba Quercus Reserve is, however, a ham apart. His animals "are reared as if they were pets", the Times explains, enjoying a two-year, free-range lifestyle, pampered by individual swineherds while gorging themselves on acorns.

This is, of course, par for the course for a pukka Iberian ham. What elevates Maldonado's ham to its extravagant price tag is the two-year curing process, as opposed to the standard 12 months.

Extremadura-based Maldonado explained: "This is the best ham in the world because it comes from the best pigs in the world. But I also cure the meat for twice as long so the taste is so much richer."

Connoisseurs agree, and bidders from as far afield as Shanghai have battled to get themselves on the reserve list for next year's auction of just 200 legs for which they'll pay at least 80 quid a pound. Among those bidding will be Pedro Soley, who described the Alba Quercus Reserve as "the Rolls-Royce of Spanish ham".

Bootnote

*I always assumed these pampered porkers were fed on acorns from your bog-standard deciduous oak, but apparently their nosh comes from the evergreen encina, or holm oak (quercus ilex). So now you know.

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