jamón iberico – Iberian ham

A guide to food in Spain

A B C D-E F-G-H I-J-K L-M-N O-P-Q R S T U-V-W-X-Y-Z

Jamón iberico – Iberian ham is a big topic which needs meaty coverage. This is a brief introdution

There are several classes of ham. The much cheaper Jamón Serrano is from any breed of pig. No more on this for now.

Jamón Ibérico represents just 5% of Spanish ham production. It comes from at least 75% of the the Black Iberian Pig breed and is the finest and possibly the most expensive pig product on the planet. Included within the Jamón iberico classification is the idea of Pata Negra, but this in itself is not a sign of quality. as it merely indicates the quantity of keratin on the hoof. In truth Pata Negra is a popular and advertising term rather than a true category as there are lower quality jamones de pata negra and higher quality jamones ibericos which don’t have a pata negra. It has recently been banned to avoid such confusion. Whatever the case, if you want the best you want a jamón ibérico de bellota – jamón iberico (breed) de bellota (acorn-fed, free range).

Within the classification of Iberian pig hams they are sub-divided according to the pigs’ diet, with an acorn diet being most desirable:

  • Jamón ibérico de bellota. Bellota is Spanish for “acorn”. This is the finest ham. These hams come from pigs fed only acorns during this last period. Also known as Jamón Iberico de Montanera.
  • Second-class jamón ibérico is called Jamón ibérico de recebo. These are from pigs fed a combination of acorns and grain.
  • Third-class jamón ibérico is called Jamón ibérico de pienso or may simply be called Jamón ibérico. These pigs are fed only grain.

    Within this there are regions and estates which produce better hams (for example, Jabugo, Guijello).

    .

    The ham making process

    After slaughtering the pigs, the hams are salted and left dry for two weeks. Then they are rinsed and left to dry for a further four to six weeks. The curing process then takes about nine months, although some producers cure their hams for over two years. More from Wikipedia.

    .

    Frances Barrett notes:

    For me, jamón [ham] is the jewel in the crown of Spanish cuisine. Madrid has several excellent establishments with names like El Palacio del Jamón or El Museo del Jamón , where eating ham is treated like a sacrament.

    Traditional jamón del país is indeed fit for the gods. You can see lots of legs of this type of cured ham hanging, as often as not from any ceiling, in many charcuterias and bar/restaurants all over the country, each with a little inverted cone to collect the drippings. A distinction is made between the quality of the forelegs { paletilla } and the rear legs, which have more fat on them. Tacos de jamón have got no connection with Mexican tacos , but involve cubes, chunks or slices of one or more types of ham served on a plate or in a bowl. (Note that the word tacos also means swear words or bad language, so be careful how you ask for them!). Tablas are more substantial wooden boards covered with a selection of different sorts of jamón.

    A guide to food in Spain

    A B C D-E F-G-H I-J-K L-M-N O-P-Q R S T U-V-W-X-Y-Z