Spanish Ham

Types of Spanish ham (Jamon)

Hams DryingSpanish ham is very appreciated as a gourmet product, both in Spain and elsewhere in the world. It is consumed regularly in most Spanish homes. In fact, Spain is not only the largest producer of cured ham, the Spanish are the biggest consumers of the world! Each Spanish consumes about 5 kilos of ham per year. That is double what the Italians eat.

There are several types of cured ham in Spain, ranging in price from very economical to very expensive. Grocery stores, sausage shops and supermarkets sell different types of ham. Ham is historically important food, dried and cured with salt for centuries. The people of the Iberian Peninsula ate pork and ham in their diet, even in the Roman times. However, when the Moors conquered the peninsula, because of their religious beliefs, eating pork was forbidden. After the Christians regained control and forced the Muslims and Jews to either convert or go into exile, pork regained its popularity.

It is unlike the smoked and salty Virginia country hams, which have to be soaked and cooked. And it is even significantly different from Italian prosciutto, which is cured for a few months with a coating of lard. The Spanish jamón serrano has distinctly more flavor, and significantly less salt than country ham and less fat than prosciutto.

Spanish ham contains less moisture than their European counterparts. The hams from Jabugo are considered as the best in Andalusia and Spain. Still made in the traditional way, these hams are fully cured by the hot winds of summer and cool airs of winter in the Sierra of Jabugo.

The bests hams are the "Ibérico de Bellota". The Iberian pig is an animal adapted to the "Dehesa", which is the only Mediterranean forest is left, the size of Holland, populated by oaks and cork trees.
It moves the Iberian pig in semi-wild, naturally foraging and, by October or November when it starts falling acorn that pork is the manna, is eating for three months. If their weight increases by 50% and reaches the 150 kilos, gives rise to the Iberian acorn.

Pigs do not reach the weight before the time runs from the acorn, they are helped with a diet based on cereals or animal feed. Recebo are Iberian. And finally there is the bait Iberico, which is not reaching the acorns.

For livestock management, which provides the number of acorns that produce the trees and prepare the pigs that are optimal in a development phase at the beginning of the open range grazing time. If there is insufficient acorn, remove pigs. It is fascinating to see such management. Behind is a philosophy.

The philosophy of slow food. Faced with the fast, the intensive and expensive, traditional producers of Iberico ham animal advocate giving the time, stop living in the place where he belongs, to help maintain the habitat.

Jamón Serrano / Jamón Curado / Jamón Reserva
This is just the "ordinary cured ham" from white pigs, fed with a mixed diet of authorized commercial compound feed. The words Serrano, Curado, Reserva and Extra are just marketing terms and don’t tell us anything about the time of curing. Quality can differ strongly between different brands and is not easy to recognize. Price is usually a good indication.

Jamón Ibérico (Our Iberian Ham)
Jamón ibérico, Iberico ham, also called pata negra, is a type of cured ham produced mostly in Spain. It is at least 75% black Iberian pig, also called the cerdo negro (black pig). According to Spain's Denominación de Origen rules on food products jamón ibérico may be made from cross-bred pigs as long as they are at least 75% ibérico.

Only ham from the Iberian pig is allowed to be called Jamón Ibérico. If no mention is made of bellota, then the pig was fed with authorized commercial compound feed and some acorns and pastures. Still, its taste is more refined than an ordinary Jamón Serrano.

Jamón Iberico de Recebo (Our Black Label)
This ham is from the Iberian pig, fed with acorns and authorized compound feed during the last months of feeding. This ham is a good compromise for those who don’t want to spend too much money on a ham but still want to experience its excellent taste.

Jamón Ibérico de Bellota (Our Bellota Ham)
Iberian ham is from pigs that have been fed exclusively with acorns and herbs. This is the most refined ham available! Difference in quality depends on the time of curing and the "know-how" of its producer.

Paleta o paletilla (Shoulder)
While ham is the hind leg of the pig, paleta or paletilla is the front leg. Nevertheless, a paleta can have an excellent taste and undergoes the same processes of ham-making. The difference is that a paletilla is smaller and has a little more fat. Therefore it’s cheaper. If you can’t afford a Jamón Iberico de Bellota, ask for a Paleta Iberica de Bellota!

Jamón de Pata Negra
Traditionally in Spain this term has been used to describe the Iberian ham, but the appeal "Pata Negra" is not correct, even today remains deeply rooted in memory and many people still using it colloquially to call it the Iberian ham, although there are hams Iberian whose hoof is not black.

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Spanish Ham


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