Types of Spanish Hams
There are different levels of quality for cured ham depending on the origin of the fresh meat, the breed and diet of the pig, how it is tended and slaughtered, the skill and care of the producers and the duration of the whole process. The minimum curing period is seven months, but it may be much longer depending on the initial weight of the ham and other factors.
There are many different breeds of the porcine species, which have been selected wisely generation after generation. Iberian pork is highly prized for its high quality meat, knowing that it represents a small proportion of pork production in Spain. Its characteristics give the Iberian pig its distinctive culinary properties. The difference is that the Iberian pig deposits the fats it accumulates in the course of its life within the muscle tissue. This makes the meat marbled and juicy, which is one of the main characteristics of Spanish ham. The quality of jamón is influenced mostly by pig’s diet during its breeding. The more acorn the diet contains the better the meat is. Also – acorn diet creates that characteristic taste which makes Iberian ham so special.
Ibérico Jamón must come from the breed black Iberian pig to be able to be called Ibérico. There are different types of Ibérico Jamón depending on the pig’s diet, acorns being the best food to produce the most delicious Jamón. This product also takes time and after being dried, can take up to 24 months in some cases to be cured to perfection.
- Jamón Ibérico Pata negra (black label)
The pig must be 100% Iberian with an outdoor diet of bellota (acorns) and raised in an oak forest.
- Jamón Ibérico de Bellota (red label)
The pig race is not as pure and raised in free range, grazed on pastures planted with oak trees in oak forests (Spanish: dehesas). Pig’s diet consists of roots, herbs, fresh grass and acorns of oak. In the last phase of fattening pigs are being fed only with acorns and this type of diet has a remarkable impact on the quality and taste of the ham. This meat is smoked and prepared during a period of up to 36 months.
- Jamón Ibérico de Cebo
Green label: The pig is fed outdoors on a diet of grain.
White label: The pig is raised indoors and fed on a diet of grain.
Means “from the mountain” which is where the particular breed of white pig that produce Serrano Jamón come from. The meat is dried for two weeks to remove all the moisture before being cured for anywhere from six to 24 months! Serrano Jamón has a wonderful mild ham flavour and beautiful red colour.