I didn’t quite realise how much I love Spanish ham until I last visited Barcelona. I know there are some heavyweight around, such as Parma/Proscuitto ham, Jambon de Bayonne and etc. But, for me, Spanish ham is my favourite.
There are two types of Spanish ham – Serrano ham and Iberico ham. It’s all about the pig – different kind pigs. Seranno hams are made from white -footed pigs. As for Iberico hams, they are made from black-footed pigs, which are the cross-bred descendant of wild boar. Most of the hams in Spain are made from the white-footed pigs, whereas only about 8% are made from the black-footed ones.
Both white and the black pigs are farmed and fed on barley and maize during their first two years. When the white pigs are fully grown between 6 to 8 months, the black pigs are slower to mature, which takes another 2 years to be fully grown. During the 2 years, they roam free in the woods and pastureland of the dehesa, eating a natural wild foraging diet of acorns, herbs, roots and legumes, which gives the meat its distinctive rich and subtle flavour.
As you could have probably guessed there is a price difference between Serrano and Iberico ham. Yes, Iberico ham is much more expensive. Amongst Iberico ham, there are several different types:
Jamón ibérico de bellota – Top of the range, produced from pure iberico pigs fed on a diet of acorns during the Montanera and granted Denomination of Origin status. They are aged at least three years and often labelled “reserva” and “gran reserva”.
Jamón ibérico de recebo – This is from iberico pigs who are fed on a mixed diet of cereals and acorns and aged for at least three years.
Jamón ibérico cebo de campo – This is from iberico pigs allowed to roam freely, but their diet is solely cereals.
Jamón ibérico de cebo – Farm-reared iberico pigs fed on a diet of cereals.
Though there are several varieties of Iberico ham, I am ok with just the one that doesn’t cost me too much, just the “entry level” will make me happy. In general, I like Spanish hams for some reasons – they are drier, very very thinly sliced, nutty and very smoky – very deep and rich flavour.
Well, the best way to enjoy is on its own with a glass of full bodied red wine (my all time favourite is Bordeaux). Though, there are many many different ways to use either Serrano or Iberico hams.
This time, I have made Serrano ham & fromage frais tartines. They are great for quick and simple lunch.