A Taste of California’s Only Commercial Iberian Pig Farm

Encina Farms Iberian pork loin chops grilled with just salt and pepper.
Encina Farms Iberian pork loin chops grilled with just salt and pepper.

Since last summer, Helmut Drews, a former tech acquisitions specialist, and Madrid-native Alberto Solis, a founder of the San Mateo incubator kitchen known as KitchenTown, have been cultivating a dream.

They have been raising Iberian pigs on their Encina Farms, the only commercial endeavor of its kind in California nurturing these specialty Spanish swines from which the luxurious jamon Iberico derives.

While Encina Farms’ own jamon Iberico is still a few years off — it takes a minimum of two years to cure the buttery ham leg — other pork products made from this distinctive black-footed, acorn-devouring breed can be enjoyed now.

Look for Encina Farms selling its Iberian pork cuts every Friday at the St. Helena’s farmers market and Saturday at the Napa farmers market.

The farm also offers limited delivery in the Bay Area, plus shipping to other parts of California, as well as Arizona, Oregon and Washington.

After writing a story about the founding of the farm last year for the San Francisco Chronicle, I was eager to try the pork for myself, so I splurged on a shipment.

As you can imagine, such primo pork doesn’t come cheap. But it’s well worth it to try such a unique breed now right here in California.

Encina Farms sells everything from bacon ($19 per pound) and trotters ($4 per pound) to ground pork ($13 per pound), cheeks ($40 per pound), and even a whole hog ($7.15 per pound).

The Butifarra Sausages ($22 per pound) are a Catalonia specialty. They have a coarse texture, with big hits of garlic and black pepper. They’re great snuggled into grilled buns or arranged atop roasted potatoes, polenta or a variety of grilled veggies.

The loin chops ($24 per pound) boast a ribbon of fat around them, which you simply must eat. Now is not the time for trimming off excess fat. Just sink your teeth into these sweet, tender chops, and allow the burst of fatty juices be the stuff of dreams.

The ribs of your dreams -- grilled Iberian pork ones.
The ribs of your dreams — grilled Iberian pork ones.

The spare ribs ($15 per pound) are insanely good. The fairly squirt with juice when you bite into them. They are incredibly marbled, making them exquisitely rich tasting. So much so that if you’re accustomed to devouring a stack of ribs, you might find that simply two or three of these will more than satiate.

What are you waiting for? Now’s the time to truly pig-out.

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