When Paris Plans Get Sidetracked to Spain.
Oh, the Problems I Have

Cutting the 3 year Jamón Ibérico

When Dr. Seuss says, “Oh, the places you’ll go!” he wasn’t kidding. With my role at ANCO, constant travel is part of my job description. It’s not always easy, but nevertheless I’ve learned to dig it.

Some trips are spur of the moment. When my schedule for fall 2016 included a trip to one of my favorite places in the world – Paris – my year was looking pretty special! Little did I know it was about to go from special to spectacular – with a slight addition to the itinerary: Spain. Just when my plans were firmed up for a pre-Christmas trip to “La Ville-Lumière” (“The City of Lights”), I got a second invitation. Could I, on my way to Paris, spend a few days in Spain? Hmmm. Let me think. Yes.

The invitation came from one of my new favorite vendors: Unearthed. They offer amazing products – products that happen to be some of my favorite foods! Olives, chorizo, pate, Spanish omelets … Unearthed offers those of us on “the other side of the pond” an opportunity to discover a world of flavor not always available to us. I jumped at the chance to meet with them.

Jamón Ibérico air drying facility

The best products are always produced by the most passionate people

That’s what Unearthed has found, anyway. Their manufacturers are often continuing a family tradition that stretches back for generations. Their products are the result of that passion combined with the terroir – the sense of place. Climate, access to the best raw materials, and the depth of local knowledge combine to create the terroir that plays such a large role in the flavor profiles and high quality of Unearthed products.

Arriving in Seville, I found Unearthed’s Head of International Business Development (also a microbiologist), Marco Águas waiting for me and we drove two hours west to his home country of Portugal, to Elvas. Elvas is a Portuguese city with a Gothic cathedral that dates from the reign of Manuel I of Portugal (1495–1521). Elvas is known for its Moorish architecture, its olives and plums. Brandy is distilled and pottery manufactured in the city.

Jamón Ibérico air drying facility

Fish-bowl sized gin and tonics refreshed us as we joined the rest of the team for our week-long adventure into the world of Jamón Ibérico

In the morning, Diego Pastor, Export Director, led a tour to the natural Jamón air-drying facility Señorío de Olivenza in Olivenza. Now Spain, once Portugal and just over the Elvas border the streets still keep both the Portuguese and Spanish names. Here they produce the famous pata negra, or certified DOP Jamón Ibérico, produced from the black-hooved Ibérian pig. This pork is coated in natural sea salt, the only additive and a natural ingredient in preservation. We learned that humidity and temperature greatly affect the outcome of the perfect product, which is aged a minimum of three years.

We headed to lunch, in an historic restaurant in the city center, hosted by Ramón Martín, the owner of the facility I visited and the brand Montaraz. As we arrived and began to chat, we were greeted with glasses of sherry while master carver Jorge sliced three-year Jamón Ibérico paper-thin. After a rich lunch we left for the farm, where we met the next generation of Ibérico Bellota pigs, running free among the oak trees, waiting for the first of the season’s acorns to fall.

Jamón Ibérico

In Spain, the oak forest is called Dehesa

Each pig is allotted a hectare of land on which to roam. It’s here in Montenara season – October to January – when the acorns fall and the pigs get fat.

When you are shopping, take care to support this free-range method of animal farming. Look for “Bellota” or “Cebo de Campo” on the packages. The word “Cebo” alone designates an animal that was not allowed free-range treatment.

Unearthed now carries these and other exciting discoveries that inspire our foodie culture. This “slight addition” to my itinerary turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, an up-close look at one of my new favorite vendors, and a new appreciation of imported foods that Dr. Seuss would appreciate.

By Hannah Thompson
Hannah Thompson, ACS CCP, Authorized Educator (TM), Client Services. Hannah resides in Atlanta, Georgia with her chef husband and two dogs.









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