Like a lot of food-related inventions, the Spanish version of the cured ham was made by pure accident. Ever heard about the pig that fell into a high-concentrated salt river stream, drowned, only to get picked up and roasted by some villagers?
Hopefully that sparked your interest enough for you to stick around, because what mankind received centuries after these villagers roasted this salt-penetrated pig and ate the pork, was the awesome ham from Spain that we see in sandwiches and tapas today.
So apart from not only being delicious, this particular salted pork could get stored over a longer period of time without losing considerable flavor. Now, you know how we humans behave when given all the time in the world: Our natural curiosity (and acute boredom) leads us to try things over and over again which in this case resulted in the Spaniards perfecting the technique of curing ham, thus giving us the Serrano and Ibérico.
RELATED RECIPE: Chorizo and Serrano Ham Pizza
Never (ever) confuse Serrano ham with Ibérico Ham
Before deep diving into the subject, let’s cover the fundamentals. Most people have heard the terms “Serrano” and “Ibérico” when discussing Spanish hams, but few truly know what sets them apart – probably why we are making this Serrano ham versus Ibérico ham guide in the first place?
Jamón Serrano originates from the white pig. This pig is a mixture of a wide range of breeds, and this little nugget of a fact makes everything boil down to this particular ham not having the same quality as the Iberian pig. Goes without saying that it is less expensive to purchase and makes for the greater part of hams sold in Spain.
Jamón Ibérico stems from being interbred with local wild pigs – hence their darker shading and their Spanish nickname Pata Negra (dark foot). These pigs roam the Dehesa, scavenging around for fallen oak seeds from trees like Holm Oaks, Gall Oaks and Cork Oak. It is from this eating regimen and the pigs being permitted to wander free in the woodlands that gives the meat its rich, upgraded flavor, and the dashes of fat put away between its muscle strands that makes this ham significantly better than the rest.
The three primary sorts of Jamón Ibérico are as per the pigs’ eating routine, which decides the ham quality:
- Jamón Ibérico de Bellota (oak seed): The finest of all hams. Unfenced pigs that wander the oak timberlands. The meat is cured for no less than 36 months.
- Jamón de Recebo: The pigs are fed and encouraged a blended eating routine of oak seeds and grain. The meat is cured for no less than 24 months.
- Jamón Ibérico de Cebo: The pigs are nourished on grain and the meat is cured for up to 24 months.
RELATED RECIPE: Serrano Ham And Manchego Croquettes
How the ham is cured
In the course of the most recent century, family production lines have started curing these hams in huge amounts utilizing the same strategies. The hams are left to assimilate the salt for a couple of weeks. At that point they are hung in industrial facilities that still have open windows to permit the mountain air to flow around the hams. Ibérico hams generally around two years, Jamón Ibérico de Bellota hams for more periods.
This remarkably long curing procedure is conceivable in light of the gigantic measure of fat on every ham and, on account of the Bellota hams, the cell reinforcement nature of their weight control plans. Over the curing period they free about a large portion of their weight as the fat dribbles away. A staggering change happens as the winter moves to spring and summer. The salted ham begins to sweat. In light of the salt, microorganisms can’t grab hold, however gigantic compound changes happen.
The meat gets to be dryer, and chills as the second winter initiates. The exceptional part of Ibérico is that it can experience this cycle a few times. The outcome is a development of unpredictable, unstable atoms in the ham that change it from a bit of pork into a symphony of flavors. With the Bellota hams, the most wonderful change is of the fats. Through this time of warming and cooling, salting and drying, the fats are separated. As a result of the cancer prevention agents in the oak seeds and the extraordinary curing handle, the soaked fats are changed into sound mono-unsaturated fats high in oleic corrosive. The main fat higher in oleic corrosive is olive oil.
So, what did we learn?
Well, in other words: Ibérico > Serrano. Not only is the texture different, with the Serrano being a little more softer and squishy, but you will also notice the difference in taste. That is, if you’re palette is sophisticated and trained…
There are a lot of Serrano and Ibérico ham makers in the world, all competing for your belly’s attention. Whatever you choose to go with, know your stuff. After reading this, you’ll be for sure treated differently around Spain’s many street butcheries. If not, make your mark within your social circle and claim that coveted spot as the ham expert. Not many can claim that ish.