Information about Jamón (Spanish ham)

Iberian pigs in the meadow

Spanish hams are distinguished by the breed of the pig and how and where it was raised. These factors influence the taste, texture and price of each ham.

Jamon Serrano

Serrano ham comes from white pigs, which are raised on farms and fed cereal feed, and then cured for more than one year at high altitudes in dry climates such as Teruel and Sierra Nevada – hence the word Serrano translates to mean mountain ham. Jamon Serrano has a mild, sweet flavour.

Jamón Ibérico de Bellota - 'pata negra'

The Iberian Pig is born and raised in idyllic natural surroundings, the meadow (dehesa), a man-made Mediterranean ecosystem comprising large open forests of holm and cork oak trees.

The fattening phase in the meadows is between October and March. This period is known as "montanera". During that time, the pig is fed exclusively on acorns and grasses, receiving a diet rich in carbohydrates and healthy fats, oleic acid being the main one, which is so beneficial for their health.

The pig's optimum diet and continuous exercise in the freedom of the meadows decisively contribute to its muscle formation, with a perfect balance between meat and fat needed to form the unique characteristic marbling that distinguishes the organoleptic quality of the meat.

This diet of acorns and a longer curing time results in a complex, deep flavour which is sweet, nutty, and not too salty.

Jamón Ibérico

These are hams from black Ibérico pigs which are raised on a diet of cereal feeds (Cebo Grade) or that have enjoyed a short free range acorn grazing period and are subsequently fattened to market weight with cereal feed (Recebo Grade). These hams are cheaper than the Jamón Ibérico de Bellota but lack their intense flavour.

Curing process

This traditional procedure includes four stages:

  • Salting: The hams and shoulders are laid out in stacks, one on top of the other, four layers high, and are completely covered in coarse, damp sea salt. The time the meat is left in the stacks depends on its weight, quality and structure.
  • Resting: Following the initial Salting and washing phase, the Resting or Salt balancing period begins, where the salt is distributed over the entire ham and shoulder, from the outside to the inside.
  • Curing: The hams and shoulders are hung in natural drying rooms. There they begin to sweat out the fat, literally "dripping". In order to optimise the drying, the Ham Artisans adjust the temperature of the cellar in the traditional way, as was done in the olden days, by opening and closing the windows.
  • Maturing in the cellar: Where time stands still and the pace is slowed until they are fully cured, losing up to 35% of their original weight once they are fully matured. During this stage, the mould and fungal flora on the outside of the ham contribute to its maturation, perfecting its characteristic smell and bouquet

The entire ham production process is on average between 26 and 42 months, and between 18 to 36 months for shoulders, depending on their size.