Our Spanish Jamon
Serrano Imports is proud to share one of the most delicious cured hams in the world. Jamon Iberico ham has a story unique and special of its own with a rich history of Spanish traditions. The noble black Iberico pig, from the beautiful oak pastures of Spain is transformed in to one of the world’s greatest foods. This delectable product is created with care, skill, precision while also maintaining old traditional methods in preserving its natural and extraordinary flavours.
The Iberico Pig
The Iberico pig has a long history that dates back millennia. The indigenous pig has been reared for centuries by the Spanish. Iberico pigs are most famous for their black colour. The hog is very big with a long snout and slender legs. The name ‘pata negra’ comes from the black hooves that remain on the legs when hung to cure in the mountain air. This characteristic separates the ham from the Serrano ham made in Spain. What also makes this pig so undeniably delicious is the many layers and marbling of fat that runs through the muscles of the pigs. The hams are cured much longer due to the high amount of fat that result in a more intense, rich flavour that melts in the mouth after cured for months or sometimes years.
The Acorn Diet
There are several different stages and categories for naming and producing Jamon Iberico. In order to be given the title of the Jamon Iberico de Bellota the pigs must be fed on acorns in open pastures for the last months of their lives. ‘Jamon Iberico’ are still the same breed of the black pig but are rather fed on high quality grains and corn. This meat is still excellent and cured in the same traditional ways as the Bellota. ‘Bellota’ in Spanish means acorns and it is this special feasting period that gives the ham this sweet nutty flavour. The Bellota pigs graze the wild herbs, grasses and forage for acorns during the fall and winter months. Each pig can eat almost ten kilograms of acorns a day and by the age of 10 months they weigh around 200 pounds each. At this point when the pigs have almost doubled in size they are ready to become Jamon Iberico de Bellota.
Traditionally the process of slaughtering the pig has been a family affair and would be an important event of preserving the meat for the rest of the year. Many of the other specialties of chorizo, salchichon and sausages would have been made at this moment of the sacrifice. As well as other fresh cuts of meat would have been enjoyed. Legs would be carefully cured and hung in the cool mountain air. After thousands of years these traditional methods are still done in the small towns in the mountains of western Spain.
The Mountain Air (La Sierra)
We now find family run farms that produce these special hams in larger qualities. Done in bigger spaces now, these hams are hung to cure for months with the mountain air blowing through open aired spaces. Depending on the cut or type of ham they are left to cure from a couple of months to several years to develop a complex and incredible flavour.
The Important Fat
With most fat, comes great flavour and there is no shortage of this fat on each salted leg of Jamon Iberico. The fats found in each leg are healthy mono-unsaturated fats which are high in oleic acid. When the legs are hung to cure in the open air rooms the fat drips down and away. The legs will eventually lose almost half their weight through this process. During the warmer spring and summer months the salted hams begin to sweat and because of the salt a chemical change occurs. The result of this fat melting through these changing temperatures after two years is absolutely extraordinary. The ham develops a rich, buttery and nutty flavour unparallel to anything else. Not only is this ham delicious but holds the same healthy fats and antioxidants as an olive oil.
The quality, breed, time and attention are all important aspects in creating the end result of the ham. The ruby red dark meat is beautifully marbled with veins of glistening fat. Jamon Iberico is best served at room temperature and sliced very thinly. The texture of the ham is essential as it allows the meat to melt the sweet, nutty and complex flavours on to your palate. The ham is never too salty and with each bite you will appreciate the uniqueness and essence of the terroir captured from the countryside of Spain.