Friday, 20 April 2012

Types of Spanish Iberico and Serrano Ham

Jamon (Spanish for ham) Iberico or Serrano is in addition to caviar,foie and black truffles, the fourth finest and valued flavour in the world, as ensuring the best chefs and experts. The exclusivity of this food, only made in some regions of Spain, perfect because of its climate, tradition and know-how, makes it one of the most sought after and asked for. A truly gourmet delight.

But, what do we know about the different kinds of Jamon? What is exactly a Jamon Iberico or a Jamon Serrano? Well, the biggest difference is in the feeding of the animals, and the types of pigs.

Mainly we can find two breeds of pigs in Spain:

Black Iberian: This legendary and select race has many qualities, including a great capacity to accumulate fat under its skin and between the muscular fibres. This is what produces the typical white streaks that make it special. It’s the only breed used to makeIberico ham. Only in some cases, pigs grow and live freely in the dehesa (meadow), where they can run and do exercise, what is perfect for the hams.

White pig: is a cross between Large White and Landrace (mother side) and Duroc breed (father side). These races allow to obtaining quality hams with low levels of dietary cholesterol (high in unsaturated fats and low in saturated fat). It’s used to make Serrano ham.

So, from the back leg of a Black Iberian pig we can make:

-        Jamon Iberico de Bellota(Spanish for acorn): is the top grade of Spanish ham. Bellota means that the pig has been fed exclusively on a diet of acorns and herbs. This feeding gives the hams a very rich flavour and smooth texture. These hams need to be cured for at least 24 months. The world most famous brand is Joselito.

-        Jamon Iberico de Recebo: the pig has been fed a mixed diet including both acorns and compound feed (cereals mainly). The hams take some flavour of the acorn, but with less intensity.

-        Jamon Iberico de Cebo: pigs raised in a compound feed diet. Anyway, the breed makes an excellent ham even without the acorn diet, with a very smooth texture and good flavour.  

And from the back leg of a White Spanish pig we can make:

-          Jamon Serrano: this indicates that the pig has grown (and the ham has been made) in a mountain range, so is used to indicate a wide range of hams. The salting and curing process is the same as for the Iberico ham, but usually for less time. Flavours range from mild and full flavoured, excellent as well. Jamon Serrano is the staple of most Spanish families and restaurants and accounts for 90% of ham production in Spain.

-          Jamon from Teruel: this refers to a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin by EU Authorities) type of ham made exclusively in Teruel, a region with perfect conditions, including climate, for raising pigs and curing process. Jamon from this area has an special flavour, highly valued and appreciated by top Spanish chefs, who often use it in their recipes and restaurants. PDO Council lays down rules that ensure the high quality of this ham. There are really strict rules for growth and feeding pigs, for the curing process, even for the altitude (800 m.a.s.l.) and the geographical area at which the hams are to be made. There are many brands and small companies of Jamon from Teruel, but undoubtedly, the most recognized for its quality and special flavour is Antonio Mata.

And what is a Paleta? Simple: a Jamon is made from the back leg of a pig. The Paleta or Paletilla is made from the front leg (shoulder cut). Obviously the Jamon has more meat than the Paleta because the size difference, as it’s smaller (but less expensive).

We hope helped to tell the different types of Jamon and its qualities for your next purchase

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