Given that Extremadura remains a largely agricultural region, it is hardly surprising its cuisine is renowned for high-quality local ingredients, whether it be the trout from the streams in the Gredos mountains, the pimentón (paprika) from the Vera, the goats’ cheese from Cáceres or the succulent cherries from the Valle de Jerte. Signature dishes include the humble migas (bread crumbs, paprika, ham, garlic and olive oil) and patatas revolconas (delicious paprika-flavoured potatoes), but to most Spaniards ham is the gastronomic product they most associate with Extremadura.
Together with the Sierra Morena in Andalucía, the Extremaduran sierra is the only place in the country that supports the pure-bred Iberian pig, source of the best jamón. For its ham to be as flavoursome as possible, the pig, a subspecies of the European wild boar exclusive to the Iberian Peninsula, is allowed to roam wild and eat acorns for several months of the year. The undisputed kings of hams in this area, praised at length by Richard Ford in his Handbook for Travellers, are those that come from Montánchez, in the south of the region. The village is midway between Cáceres and Mérida, so if you’re in the area try some in a bar, washed down with local red wine – but be warned that the authentic product is extremely expensive, a few thinly cut slices often costing as much as an entire meal. The local wine, pitarra, is an ideal accompaniment.