Since we bought Les Terraces we’ve passed by a shop with a big “Pata Negra” sign outside as we’ve travelled between Sainte-Foy and Libourne or Bordeaux on numerous occasions, but we’ve never stopped in to see what it was. Dumbo here thought that it was some sort of black pasta, which wouldn’t have interested Graham at all, so no point really. Or so we thought.
A few weeks ago Graham and I headed off with my stepfather to one of our favourite spots for lunch: La Table Rouge in the little hamlet of Mouliets about a 25 minute drive west of Sainte-Foy-La-Grande. The weather was divine and we enjoyed a table on the terrace with views over the Dordogne. On the entrées menu was a dish of “Pata Negra”, which we decided to share as a starter, not knowing what it was. It was, in a word, luscious.
So, on the way back from meeting my father at Bordeaux airport, I asked Graham if we could stop in and buy some of this yummy ham. Graham, generous as ever, acquiesced and pulled into the car park and found a spot in the shade (it was a very hot day). My father and I ventured into the coolness of the shop. In the outer area there was a barrel with nice fat juicy green olives waiting to be tasted, so we obliged. The inner sanctum was dominated by a medium-sized jail cell full of meat.
For the uninitiated, such as ourselves, Pata Negra is a cured ham made from the meat of black Iberian pigs. Apparently these prized porkers are allowed to graze free-range for most of their lives, but when the time approaches for them to be slaughtered they are fed on a diet of olives and/or acorns, depending upon the quality of the end product. The meat is salted and dried for a couple of weeks, then rinsed and left to dry for another 4-6 weeks before the curing process starts. Curing takes another year to an incredible four years, again depending upon the quality. However, we didn’t know that when we walked into the shop and were gob-smacked at the prices. I thought that €50 a kilo would have been pricey, but I was waaay far off the mark – somewhere close to outer Mongolia, to be precise. Pricey was €134.95 a kilo. The best was ten more. Gulp!
Still, being intrepid and ballsy souls we tasted anyway. We were under no obligation to buy, well not really. However, what we tasted was exceedingly good. I decided that I’d let my father be the decider – whatever he liked best would be what we bought. That’s how we ended up paying €134.95 a kilo, which translates to about €1.50 for half a fork-full:
Was it worth it? Oh, yes! Will we buy it again? Now that’s a tough one…. the flavour is incredible, the texture delectable – far better than the best jambon sec we’ve ever had… but! Only time will tell.
PS: I am duty bound to report that my father decreed that as he liked the top-of-the range best of all he was paying! Who was I to complain?