Posted by: puebloman | August 7, 2011

How to buy Serrano Ham

Next time you come down to southern Spain for a holiday – and you won’t be able to stay away for long, instead of returning home with a fluffy donkey or a mexican hat, consider a quality souvenir that will give pleasure to you and yours for a good six months. I’m talking about a leg of Serrano ham.

Just as “cafe con leche” is superior to “cafe au lait”, so Jamon Serrano is superior to Parma ham, though by the price of the latter you wouldn’t think so. Serrano ham is also cheap Spanish food. In the sense that it is “best value” Spanish food.

Jamon Serrano (literally sierra meaning ‘mountain ham’) is dry cured ham. It is covered with salt for two weeks to draw off moisture and preserve the meat, then the leg is washed and dried for six months and then hung in sheds for at least another 6 months at cool, high altitudes (hence ‘mountain’ ham). As always, in hot countries you don’t need smoke when the heat of the sun is free!

Serrano ham curing while it sells

There are four aspects to a serrano ham’s quality:

The type of pig

The pig’s food

The cut (leg or shoulder)

The curing process

Beautiful, acorn stuffed Bellotas

These are the four categories of ham, starting with the highest:

Jamon Iberico de Bellota or Iberico de Montanera : Made with free-range acorn fed Black Iberian pigs (cerdo Iberico). Highest quality. Accounts for only about 5% of sales

Jamon Iberico de Recebo Acorn : The same pigs, part free range and part compound fed

Jamon Iberico : Same pigs, compound fed. This is known as Jamon de Pata Negra

Jamon Serrano, Jamon Reserva, Jamon Extra, Jamon Curado : Compound fed large white pigs

Serrano Ham has denomination de origin, like Manchego cheese and wine. Jamon de Huelva is the local denomination nearest to us, from northern Andalucia. Serrano Ham should be served at room temperature. It needs to be stored in a cool dry place, covered to preserve the aromas, and brought to room temperature prior to eating. It is best eaten in thin slices, but cheap Serrano can be diced and lightly fried in olive oil before being added to vegetables – baby broad beans for example.

For these and other delights, see us on http://www.vivasiesta.com


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