Jamón serrano is a Spanish dry-cured ham which is sometimes called ‘Spanish prosciutto.’ However, it is quite different from prosciutto, as any Spaniard will tell you as it has a much deeper, more complex flavour. Serrano ham is raw cured, meaning it is not cooked at any point of the curing process and the process itself makes the ham safe to eat.
In Spanish, jamón serrano means “mountain ham,” referring to the area of production. It is made by cleaning and trimming pork legs, salting them, and then allowing them to sit for two weeks to draw off the moisture. Then the hams are washed to remove most of the salt, hung in a cool, dry place for anything from six to 18 months.
The best place to produce serrano ham is in the mountains because they are cool, dry, and breezy. Once cured slices can be shaved off and served. Butchers keep a ham at the ready to cut off chunks for customers as needed, and whole serrano hams are kept in private homes and restaurants, sometimes for several years.
There are many producers of Spanish hams but the level of quality can be judged by the following:
- The type of pig
- The way the pig has been fed
- The part of the pig used to make the ham
- The way the ham is cured
The four major quality categories from highest to lowest are as follows:
- Jamón ibérico de bellota (Iberian Ham): Free-range, acorn-fed Iberian pigs
- Jamón ibérico de recebo: Acorn, pasture and compound-fed Iberian pigs
- Jamón ibérico de campo (sometimes just jamón ibérico or jamón de pata negra): Compound-fed Iberian pigs.
Pata negra literally means black paw or hoof in this case and is made from the Black Iberian pig (cerdo ibérico). The best varieties of pata negra are range fed and fattened on acorns in holm oak groves along the southern border between Spain and Portugal.
- Jamón serrano (also known as jamón reserva, jamón curado and jamón extra): Compound-fed white pigs.
On a completely different subject, but also related as you will see later, the smoking ban in Spain took effect at midnight on January 2, 2011
So, 3 years now since cigarette, cigar and pipe smoking was banned in bars and public places here in Spain.
So, here’s the link!!
The town of Seron is fairly close to where I live and is one home to the Serrano Ham. They even celebrate with a Jamón fiesta every year!
Driving down the A92 last week I made the obligatory halfway stop at a Hunting Lodge for my café con leche and pan tostado.
As always, the hams were hanging in the bar. It’s common for bars to have hams hanging and, as I said earlier, some of them have probably been hanging there for years. Prior to 2011 the bars would have been smoke filled 24/7 with the ‘passive’ smoke lingering on the hams.
The question which occurred to me was:-
‘Does the ham taste better or worse since the smoking ban?’
I asked the waiter, the guy behind the bar and a couple of young men sat by the hams. The response was ‘no se’, ‘I don’t know’. I don’t think it was a question that had even occurred to them.
Whether or not it tastes better, I am sure it is healthier!!
What do you think?