I am a HUGE fan of charcuterie. I’d choose it anytime and every time over any cheese whenever I have the choice. Ever since I was a kid, I loved the dryness, saltiness and aftertaste of cured ham. As I grew older, I had the chance to travel around in Europe and taste charcuterie that has been a real discovery for me, especially when I’d get to taste hams that haven’t been processed. What we grew up accustomed to in Lebanon are processed cured meats that have a mild taste meant to please every palate. But then you try the unprocessed ones and you fall in love. It’s that simple. There is something so raw, so powerful about them, yet so sophisticated, that your taste buds cannot go back to liking the tedious tastes and flavours of processed cold cuts.
The biggest influence on my taste choice came from Spain. They simply have incredible hams, and are closely followed by Italy and their exquisite charcuterie. So I have noted below my list of favourite hams, that you’re sure to find on my table whenever we’re hosting a cheese and charcuterie dinner.
Jamón Ibérico: this Spanish (and Portuguese) ham comes from the black Iberian pigs and is my all-time favorite. It is left to dry for months and the best one, the one you should by all means try, is the Jamón Ibérico de Bellota. Once you try this delicacy you’ll want to keep coming back for more.
Lomo: I don’t know why Lomo is so hard to find in Lebanon, but it is the next best thing I’ve tasted in Spain. It comes in smaller, thicker cuts that are soft and oh so rich in flavor. You can find it at Aziz here in Lebanon, so I strongly, strongly advise you give it a try and serve it as an entrée on your next dinner occasion.
Jamón Serrano: Jamón Serrano is more available in Lebanon and you can find it in big supermarkets that have a delicatessen corner. This Spanish ham is a real delight! It is served in thin slices over a piece of bread covered with tomato and garlic sauce. It is as delicious if you eat it by itself. It is oilier and with a more distinct aftertaste.
Chorizo: Chorizo is a sausage that has a slight orange color, due to it being mixed with smoked paprika. It can be either spicy or sweet. My personal recommendation is definitely the sweet one because it goes easy on your taste buds and it’s incredibly delicious!
Speck: Speck is an exquisite Italian ham (there are German and Austrian varieties too). It has a very robust and smoky taste and comes in smaller slices than regular ham. It is an absolute delight! It has hints of dryness that don’t allow for a long aftertaste, so you can easily enjoy it in a slightly larger quantity :).
Prosciutto di Parma: This one is probably the most known in Lebanon because we’re constantly served this delicacy in Italian restaurants across the country. Prosciutto has a softer taste than Speck or Jamón, and goes perfectly well with melon.
Voilà! I hope you get to try my ham recommendations, especially that the colder season is upon us and wine nights are just around the corner :).