A Renaissance for The Acorns Has Started

It’s not shocking that Jose Pizarro, essentially the most excessive-profile Spanish chef within the UK, is into acorns, contemplating he comes from Extremadura, the area, with neighboring Andalucia, most famous for its wild oak forests.

Pizarro has solved this downside by going to not British foragers, who’re actually clever to acorn use, however to Spain, and a really upmarket supply: the venerable Andalucian agency, Cinco Jotas, one of many aristocrats of Iberico ham.

As quickly because the Andalucian acorn season begins – which is dependent upon rain and is delayed this year – a bundle of huge bullet-like acorns from the Quercus ilex tree, or Mediterranean oak, of which Spain possesses half the world’s inventory, might be winging its approach over to London from Cinco Jotas’ manufacturing unit in Jabugo.

Pizarro is in the impact the UK consultant of a vanguard of Spanish cooks inserting the extraordinarily humble acorn into the highest finish of restaurant cooking.

An hour’s drive northeast of Seville, the Sierra de Aracena national park contains 180,000 acres of Dehesa – excessive wild pastureland shaded by historical gnarly oak timber, some half-stripped to bright russet nudity by cork bark harvesters.

It’s sparsely populated by cattle, sheep, and goats, plus wild boar and deer. And most crucially, by herds of lengthy-legged darkish-skinned Iberico pigs, roaming the hills, wallowing within the stream-fed swimming pools.

The pigs are, from mid-autumn on, tucking into the fallen acorns, which they nimbly shell and scoff, accompanied by mouthfuls of recent grass to alleviate the astringency of the tannin within the acorns’ interior skins.

The pure acorn diet of the ultimate months of their lives is the important thing to the appeal of the meat of the Iberico pigs, is promoting as by no means earlier than to a world market booming with the latest Jamon conversion of China, the world’s second-greatest client.

Driving by the Dehesa with biologist Maria Castro of Cinco Jotas (one of many oldest Iberian acorn ham producers), the pigs seem out of the woods and trot over to examine us.