About a year ago, Iberico hams, the most gourmet of Spanish piggies, were first sold in the United States. They arrived with black hooves on—a symbol of Spanish hospitality and a guarantee of Iberico authenticity.
Now after a USDA ruling effective January 2009, all hams will arrive "pata negra sin pata" (without the telltale black hoof). To make it worse, the ruling added a punitive 100 percent tariff on all bone-in Iberico hams, which will double the price of any delivered after March 2009. So one of these ridiculously expensive (and seriously delicious) $1,400 hams will now set you back $2,800. Talk about starting the year off on the wrong foot. [After the jump, where you can find the last of these hoofed hams.]
Virginia-based gourmet Spanish food retailer La Tienda bought all the remaining "pata negra" hams to sell online. "I don't think the officials are aware of the profound cultural implications of what they are doing—you might say they're ham fisted," La Tienda owner Don Harris said in a press release on the issue.
Iberico hams start with pigs who gorge themselves on acorns in forest meadows, giving them an olive-oil-like flavor. Unlike the garden variety pink pig, the Iberico's hooves are normally coal black, hence the "pata negra."