Walking around the Spanish supermarkets, you can’t help but be allured by the lines of Jamón legs hanging from the walls. However, selecting and then buying one can be daunting. We are bombarded with information about the different types, how the animal has been feed, the amount of curing time and how all of this affects the overall quality of the meat. To be honest, it can be a little confusing.
So, let’s break it down.
There are two principal types of Jamón: Jamón Serrano and Jamón Ibérico.
The huge difference between a Serrano and an Ibérico is the colour of the pig. Whereas the Serrano comes from a typical white pig, Ibérico ham is sourced from a black pig with black hooves giving it its name pata negra.
The types of Jamón Serrano or pata blanca are classified depending on the amount of time they have been cured for.
- Jamón Serrano de Bodega: between 10 and 12 months
- Jamón Serrano de Reserva: between 12 and 15 months
- Serrano Gran Reserva: over 15 months
- Jamón Ibérico de Bellota: This is the best Jamón available and receives it’s name from the food the pigs are fed, bellota, meaning ‘acorn’. It should be cured for at least 24 months, although some hams can be cured for up to 48 months. When you buy a leg of Jamón Ibérico de Bellota you can often see small traces of acorn in the meat, a sure sign of an amazing quality ham.
- Jamón Ibérico de Cebo de Campo: The pigs are fed with cereals and legumes and are raised outside in the countryside where the animals are granted exercise and fresh air.
- Jamón Ibérico de Recebo: Because of the lack of acorns in the Peninsula, farmers started to feed the animals with other types of feed and seeds.
- Jamón Ibérico de Cebo: The pig is constantly fed with cereals and legumes and is allowed very little/no exercise so that the fattening process is easier.