Spanish Jamon

Spanish cuisine is essentially a family one, developed out of living off the land, using the foods that were readily available and a creative mind to make the most of everything they had.

Based on simple ingredients, with its roots firmly in home cooking and pure country food, Spanish cooking is typically hearty and unpretentious.

The main criteria for the success of a dish is whether or not it tastes good.

The Spanish are a proud people, taking pride in their food, their wine and their music and are very social and familial….. the more the merrier!

Here in Spain there are more national holidays (fiestas) than any other country (almost outnumbering work days!), and each pueblo has their own on top of that!

Spanish culture, full of passion and tradition may be best known worldwide for its flamenco, paella, sherry and, of course, its famous cured Spanish Jamon (ham).

The most well known is the Jamon Serrano, but the most delectable and cherished is the Jamon Iberico.

The Spanish Jamon is so appealing because of the lengthy curing process which transforms the ham, giving it a deep flavour and aroma.

This extended curing also means it is much less fatty and has a firmer texture than Italian prosciutto.

This delicacy is served as paper-thin slices at room temperature.

The person wielding the knife must be knowledgeable about exactly how to carve the ham along the grain, this is an art in itself.

Spanish Jamon is great with plain bread

Spanish Jamon is best accompanied by bread and a nice glass of the famous rioja wine or sherry.

Eating Spanish Jamon is part of daily life for Spaniards, a Spanish ritual that dates back many centuries.

Hanging from ceiling rafters of quaint authentic Spanish bars and cafes you will see (and smell) these hanging legs of cured ham, every tapas bar and neighbourhood cafe has their own jamons.

True jamon connoisseurs favour bars where owners choose the jamon’s from respected producers such as Joselito.

During the holiday season there are literally hundreds of them hanging from the rafters of major food stores and wine and cheese boutiques.

Spanish Jamon is not seasonal, its available all year round

However, jamon is available throughout the year. This special jamon is present at almost every family “fiesta” be it weddings, baptisms or Christmas….there are just too many to count!

Spanish Jamon hanging in a Tapas Bar

“Serrano” is the generic term applied to dry-cured Spanish hams. The word Serrano literally means “from the mountains”.

The cool mountain air is an essential ingredient to all dry-cured Spanish hams. Jamon Serrano comes from pigs fed an assortment of foods whereas Jamon Iberico pigs have a very special diet.

These hams (usually the less expensive ones) are also used for cooking in salads, soups and traditional dishes, its meat is still exquisite.

The secret to Spanish Jamon lies in its curing, done according to centuries old artesanal methods. This tradition is kept alive in rural areas where in early winter, family and friends gather to slaughter their livestock in preparation for winter months.

The hams are placed in sea salt for a brief period of time – approximately one day per kilo – and then they are strung up.

They are allowed to experience the changes of temperature as the seasons change.

The right time to eat them is when an experienced ham-master inserts a long piece of cow bone and “whiffs” the jamon, like a connoisseur of wine who sniffs the cork.

Jamon Iberico (which constitutes only 10’% of all Spanish cured hams) is a luxurious, silky cured ham that is venerated as a true Spanish jewel and treasure.

Jamon Iberico is comparable to the best Iranian caviar or French truffles. It has a creamy texture, deep purple and red colouring and musky salty taste in the fat.

The special care of breeding and feeding the pigs which produce Jamon Iberico is what sets them apart from the regular pigs which produce Jamon Serrano.

Jamon Iberico comes from black bristled, boarlike (iberico) pigs that descend from an Iberian race of pigs dating back many centuries.

The best Iberian ham is produced in the countryside of western Andalucía and Extremadura regions.

Iberico pigs eat very little in summer but from October to February they are let loose in pastures full of beautiful old oak trees where they feast on wild acorns, up to 20 lbs. per day, increasing to 60 percent in weight.

The special acorn diet and the exercise of being out on the open pastures lends to the meat acquiring a delicious nutty-acorn flavour.

Although the curing process is the same as Jamon Serrano, the Jamon Iberico legs are aged between 14-36 months.

The best Spanish Jamon comes from the "Bellota" (Acorn)

Jamon Iberico de Bellota, also known as “pata negra” is the prize label given only to a small fraction of hams fattened only on acorns.

This is the crème de la crème of the Jamon Ibericos. They are so prized that oftentimes there is a waiting list to purchase a full “pata” (full bone-in leg).

The full bone-in legs are priced and sold based on weight (ranging from 16-18 pounds) with prices ranging from $79 per pound, costing up to $1,200 for one pata.

However, a mid range Spanish Jamon Serrano Reserva can be found for as low as $60 and prices go down from there.

A local told me of a sure way to get the choose the best Spanish Jamon ……although I doubt if anyone actually does this!

When buying a whole jamon leg, ask the owner to throw the jamon leg up to the ceiling, if it sticks you´ve got a good one! If it does not stick and falls to the ground, don´t buy it.

The creamy fat content of the Spanish Jamon should be enough to make the leg stick to ceiling making it an excellent Jamon Serrano.

Spanish Jamon is the best and tastiest Jamon you can find!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

marbella marketing


Marbella news direct to your inbox

We regularly update our site with interesting news and events related to Marbella, so if you would like to receive alerts, please enter your email into the box below.