One of the most representative Spanish products is jamón serrano
(cured ham). Like any other traditional product, serrano ham's quality may vary according to many factors, the breeding farm conditions, the swine diet or the curing process. The same happens with cheese for example (exclude the pig). It is not the same to buy an imported Italian cheese than to go and visit the town where it was made and try it on site. First of all, there it will be cheaper and you would get a higher quality product. So the same story applies to our cured serrano ham, even for us inside the Spanish market. It is not the same to buy a Jabugo serrano leg at La Boqueria market (today's picture is taken there although it doesn't seem to be Jabugo) than to visit Jabugo
town in Huelva mountains. I know what I am talking about, because I've done it myself. Of course you can buy one here for Christmas at a higher price, but you know in your heart that the leg you are buying may not be as good although it carried the Jabugo stamp on it. The same happens with olive oil. When on holidays I buy olive oil in Candon, Huelva
or Priego, Córdoba
. I can find similar stuff sometimes in El Corte Inglés shopping center, but my tongue tells me it is not the same. I don't know, maybe it is due to storage problems, transportation, hot weather, intermediaries, lower quality lots destined to major dealers, who knows. The point is, jamon serrano tastes better at the source (not the pig farm of course). Besides there's the external factor, the good beer, the nice weather, the tapas and the friendly people who cuts it for you. Even in Jabugo or any other town famous for selling good products, you can fall in the typical tourist trap and buy to the wrong stuff. Where am I getting at? Well, what I mean is that quality can be lost along the way and that you'd better visit those local markets to find cheap gourmet delicacies, Spain is still full of them. Visit them before they disappear forever.
Recommended reading: Introduction to Spanish Ham - Serrano and Ibérico