Eichelschinken

In search of the best ham in Germany - "Jamón Ibérico" made in Lower Franconia

Auf der Suche nach dem besten Schinken Deutschlands – "Jamón Ibérico" made in Unterfranken | Maître Philippe & Filles
Jamon Ibérico , the air-dried ham from Spanish pigs, is well known among gourmets. It fetches high prices and is said to be the best ham in the world. Particularly famous and renowned is the Jamon Ibérico de Bellota or Bellota ham, which comes from pigs subjected to traditional acorn fattening.
At Maître Philippe & Filles we don't have any Spanish ham, but we do have Porc Noir de Bigorre ham, a breed of black pig that has almost died out and has been revived. It is bred almost in the wild in the Pyrenees and is fed on acorns and chestnuts, among other things . The taste of this ham is exquisite and has a complex bouquet with aromas of dried fruit.
But how does it actually look in Germany? Does it always have to be smoked Black Forest ham in this country? No! In Lower Franconia, not far from the small community of Possenheim, the "acorn fattening with pigs" is operated as a model and demonstration project.
Behind the idea of ​​Eichelschwein.de is the agricultural engineer Hans-Hinrich Huss, who developed the idea from his diploma thesis on the subject of "pigs in the forest pasture and possibilities for reactivating this attitude". He wondered why this historical husbandry is no longer carried out in this country and therefore started the pilot project "Hat Forestation with Pigs" in 2003.
In the meantime, a well-running business model has developed and Hans receives around 250 pigs of the Duroc and German country pig breeds from a local breeder every year, which eat acorns and small animals in the Lower Franconian oak forest from August/September to November/December can.
From these pigs, Hans has 10 air-dried bone-in hams produced per year, very similar to those known from Spain (ie the whole leg with bones from which thin slices are cut off the sides), as well as also air-dried boneless ham with a special herb-salt Mixture. For the ham production, Hans works together with the butcher Landler in Peißenberg near Munich.
In order to find out whether this acorn ham "Made in Germany" can keep up with the Spanish and French competition, I talked to Daniel Mohr from Kabel Eins, with whom I was already in Brittany last autumn, to find out the secret of the vintage sardine Sneaks to come, just made the way to the south of our republic.
This short film shows in a nutshell how we fared:
Early in the morning we went into the forest, where we first went in search of the pigs. These are initially rather shy and had hidden themselves in the undergrowth. The first ones we found ran away from us at breakneck speed, or at a hog's gallop, with amazing agility. But after a while they gained confidence and hardly left our side. Maybe it was because of the acorns I had put in my pocket and wanted to lure them with.
Acorn pigs on the pasture
Acorn pigs in the forest
The film team and the acorn pigs in the forest
© Daniel Mohr
In any case, one can really say that these pigs lead a nice life there in the forest. They can romp around in packs to their heart's content, wallow in the mud, munch on acorns and small animals to their heart's content ... I could well imagine that this movement, the fresh air and the freedom from stress would taste like the ham.
I didn't have to wait long: just a week later, the time had come for the ham to be made from the last pigs of the 2015 season. Once again I was able to dress up in a smock, cap and overshoes and watch the production.
Noémie as butcher
© Daniel Mohr
Noémie and Franz in the manufactory's drying room
© Daniel Mohr
Anyone who thinks that simply rising the ham to dry is enough, is wrong. A few more steps come together, with the ham on the bone and the bone-in ham being treated differently. Of course, the top quality of the starting products is important and decisive in both cases.
For the ham on the bone, the fresh ham is placed in coarse sea salt for about 3 weeks. Then comes the so-called "burn-through phase", during which the hams are hung out for about 3 weeks at a temperature of about 5° C with plenty of fresh air. Next, they are rubbed with lard to prevent them from drying out too quickly.

The ham then matures for another 36 months. With this particularly fine ham (Hans only produces 10 pieces of it per year), great care must be taken, as the bone reacts differently than the meat. Hans and Franz told us that they had to put up with a few failed attempts, especially in the initial phase of their collaboration, until they had the desired quality.

Bone-in salted acorn-fed ham
© Daniel Mohr
drying room
© Daniel Mohr
For the deboned ham, a herb-spice-salt mixture is first mixed together, consisting of salt, cane sugar, cumin, coriander, allspice, garlic, pepper and nitrite, and rubbed into the ham by hand for curing (in industrial production, a solution administered by injection). The nitrite is the curing agent here, but only as little as absolutely necessary is used.
After curing, the ham dries for 2 years, but before that it is placed in a special drying room for a few days, where it is slowly cooled from 24 to 20 degrees. For comparison: in industrial production it dries immediately and continuously at a temperature of 18 to 20 degrees. – a step that is omitted in industrial production, but which is crucial for the quality of the ham. If it dries too quickly, a crust forms on the outside while the meat remains moist on the inside. But if you dry carefully and slowly, the skin remains elastic and the meat dries really nicely.
For the last 24 months it then hangs to dry at 14 Gard in a drying chamber with many other products and gains its special aroma.
Herb ham in the drying room
© Daniel Mohr
Herb ham in the drying room
© Daniel Mohr
The preservation by salt, the so-called curing, is an ancient method, which is also known from fish and seafaring, for example. In this case, the beginnings date back to the 13th century!
The deboned ham is a beautiful thing, but of course we were particularly interested in the "real" acorn ham, the pure bone-in ham!
Sliced ​​ham on the bone
And indeed it doesn't have to hide itself: it is buttery-melting and tender, but firm and has a beautiful texture. It tastes nice and spicy and salty with a clear nutty and sweetish-mild note, which comes mainly from the fat, which is an absolute must to eat - it literally melts on the tongue! The combination of lean meat and fat unfolds a wonderfully juicy, aromatic roundness in the mouth...
For this reason, we have decided to get one of the only 10 Made in Germany hams made in Germany for you for a small special campaign.
From today it is available fresh in our refrigerated display case and also in our online shop !
You can watch the whole show in the Kabel Eins media library. After just one advertising block, it starts right away.

Reading next

Die Geschichte des Porc Noir de Bigorre | Maître Philippe & Filles
Domaine Lefebvre d'Anselme neu bei Maître Philippe & Filles – zwei Côtes du Rhône mit Familienbezug | Maître Philippe & Filles

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