AND IBÉRICO HAMS UNIQUE FLAVOUR?
& COOKING ARTICLE
gives the Serrano and Ibérico hams of Spain their
is nothing more highly regarded in Spain than its dry-cured
hams. Although it is, quite rightly, regarded as one
of life's rare delicacies, jamón serrano is a
normal part of everyday life in most Spanish homes.
you will find it in a prominent place, with its knife
conveniently placed, just asking to be carved and eaten.
The idea being that you take a few small slices as you
pass by for a tasty tapas treat as and when the fancy
how many of us know what goes into the production of
these hams and what the main differences are?
all meat foods, the quality of Serrano and Ibérico
hams depends entirely on the type of pig it comes from,
how it is reared, what it is fed on and how it is cured.
other difference, of course, is which leg you choose.
The back legs are heavier, the better quality and are
called the jamón. The front legs are called the
let us have a look at our lovely Spanish pigs and see
what influences the quality and flavour of the hams
that come from them.
and away the best of the Spanish pigs is the Iberian
hog. Only the hams that come from these pigs can be
called Jamon Ibérico. These
pigs give us the highest quality hams and are descendents
of the wild boar. They only account for about 5% -
10% of all Serrano hams because of their expensive
rearing and feeding requirements.
from and still reared in the south-west regions of
Spain, Iberian hogs have longer legs and more pointed
snouts. Their grey skin and almost black hoofs give
them their famous Serrano name of Pata Negra which,
literally translated, means 'black foot' (or hoof).
wonderful breed has the ability to store larger fatty
deposits that create the yellow fat that gives Iberian
ham its beautifully marbled texture and distinctive
aroma. Of the Iberian pigs, the finest quality hams
come from those that have been reared free-range in
the mountains and fed exclusively on acorns (bellota).
live a life of luxury rooting about in oak forests
until the day of their demise and it is the acorns
which gives them their unique flavour.
these pigs comes the highly celebrated, and most expensive,
Jamón Ibérico de Bellota. (Also known
as Jamón Iberico de Montanera.)
in quality still comes from the Iberian pig but one
that has been fed on a mixture of acorns, pasture
and authorised commercial feeds. This ham is called
Jamón Iberico de Recebo and is a good compromise
for those who do not want to break the bank on a Bellota
ham but still want to experience the superb taste
we have the plain Jamón Iberico, also known
as Jamón de Pata Negra. Let me assure you though,
there is nothing 'plain' about this superb Ibérico
still comes from the Iberian pig, but one that has
been fed and reared on commercial compound feeds.
Nevertheless, it is still a delicious and a special
the hams of the Iberian pig we have the hams of the
white pig can be a mixture of different breeds, such
as Duroc, Landrace, Large White and Jersey. From these
come the Serrano hams, which are by far the commonest
hams, produced in Spain. They account for around 90%
of all Spanish hams sold and are known by various
names. The main ones being 'Jamón Serrano',
'Jamón Reserva', 'Jamón Curado' and
special feeding methods here, just authorized commercial
compound feed. But, yet again, they are outstanding
is worth noting that the words Serrano, Reserva, Curado
and Extra do not really tell us much about the quality
of the ham. This is down to individual brands and
producers, and can be hard to differentiate. But if
you want a fairish indication as to the quality of
Serrano ham, you can't go far wrong by looking at
the price tag!
has about covered our lovely porkers while they are
alive - let us find out what happens after they have
made the ultimate sacrifice.
the way, the Spanish breeders of these noble animals
do actually still refer to their slaughter as 'sacrifice'.
Seems like a much more respectable term, don't you
get our Serrano ham, the pigs are 'sacrificed' in
the winter and the hams are packed in piles of salt
to help dry and preserve them. The length of this
salting process depends on temperature and the weight
of the ham but is usually around one to two weeks.
The minimum amount of salt is used because a Serrano
ham that is over-salted becomes heavy and tough over
time. The salt is then cleaned off and the hams are
hung up to dry, for between one to two months, at
a temperature of between 5ºC to 10ºC and
a high humidity of 75% - 80%. This period is called
'asentamiento' and concentrates the flavour
by drying out the moisture and infusing the ham with
the remaining salt.
comes the real curing process which turns the white
fat to yellow, transforms the meat into its deep ruby
colour, and gives Serrano ham its characteristic aroma.
This lasts between six to tweleve months with the
meat adapting to the temperature and humidity of spring
and summer. After the first month or so of this, the
hams are covered with a blue-grey mould. It does not
look very appetising but this is what gives it its
aroma because in the summer, as the hams sweat off
the fat, the odour of the mould infuses into the meat.
the last month or so of the curing period the hams
will go through 'maduracion'. This is when
the temperature and humidity is dramatically increased
to spread the fats throughout the ham and increase
the flavour. After this carefully controlled process
the hams will have lost 20% to 40% of their weight
and will be considered ready for sale. At this point
most of the hams will indeed be shipped out.
the finest Ibérico hams will now be transferred
to caves or 'bodegas' for another tweleve to eighteen
months. This extra curing period is called 'añejado'
and gives these hams their celebrated complex flavours.
end result is Jamón Ibérico de Bellota.
A sweet, dark red meat marbled with rich golden fat
and infused with the nutty flavour of its staple diet:
the humble acorn.
can't get better than this, my friend. Try it and
see if you don't agree.
you would like to buy the real thing . . . your
own Serrano Ham direct from Spain then look no
further than www.orceserranohams.com
article comes from Steve who runs a recipe site
courtesy of www.orceserranohams.com
14 September 2006
Hub-UK : firstname.lastname@example.org