Spanish ham is one of the best in the world. Many, if not all, have heard of the Iberian ham. In fact, many lovers of this Spanish delicacy don’t know how it is made, and what is the difference between Serrano jamon and Iberian jamon.
The recent embarrassment with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who, speaking at the prestigious international livestock fair in Safra (Feria Internacional Ganadera de Zafra), confused the Iberian and Serrano Jamon, suggests that the Spaniards themselves know little about their popular product in the world.
Ham is the meat of smoked and salted pork ham. Serrano ham (jamón serrano, “mountain jamón”) is made of white pork, which is bred in other countries. Iberian ham (jamón ibérico, often referred to as “black leg” – pata negra) comes from Iberian pigs, only from Spain, and is nowhere else in the world. Consequently, the Iberian Jamon differs from the Serrano in origin.
There are four regions where Iberian pigs are raised:
Deesa Ecopark (Extremadura);
Pedroce (Korodoba, Andalusia);
Habugo (Huelva, Andalusia);
Gihuelo (Salamanca, Castile and Leon).
What pigs eat
Unlike white serrano pigs, the food of the Iberian pig is rich in oleic acid. The animals graze on tens of kilometers of pasture from October-November to March in search of acorns. There are also differences in the diet of the Iberian pigs, and consequently in the cost of the final product, as well as in the amount of food additives that are added to the acorn feed. Meat from an animal that has eaten on a diet of acorns will be the most expensive.
What are the types of Iberian pigs
Each Iberian pig has its own genealogical book, where data about its parents are recorded. In this way, it is possible to find out that there are purebred individuals with an Iberian father and mother (100% iberico). Next, there are pigs that have an Iberian mother and a father of another breed (usually a Duroc breed). And then there is the Iberian pig by two-thirds as it has a purebred Iberian mother and half an Iberian father.
Iberian ham production is much more handmade. It goes through various phases: salting (the ham is buried in sea salt for a certain time), then washing, drying, maturation and aging. The serrano ham production process is approximately nine months for simple ham, 12 months for Reserva and 15 months for Gran Reserva. The Iberian ham must be aged 36 months in order to be nominated for 100% Iberian Beyote Ham by denominación de origen.
How to determine the type of jamon in a store
The ham marking system was adopted in 2014. The law stipulates that each leg is accompanied by a plastic label of a certain color.
Black label – Bellota 100% iberico corresponds to the ham from the purebred Iberian animal breed that was fed on the Iberian acorn diet.
Red – Bellota iberico means that, although it has only eaten acorns, it is not 100% Iberian (bellota iberico).
Green – Cebo de Campo Ibérico, mumps not 100% of the Iberian breed: the animal was fed on acorns with natural food and herbs.
White – Cebo Ibérico, a non-Purebred Iberian breed that ate natural food.