Jamón ibérico

THE SECRETS OF A GOOD IBERIAN HAM

Iberian ham is probably one of the most popular foods of the Spanish gastronomy. However, there may be doubts about what Iberian ham really is and how it differs from acorn ham and Serrano ham. In today’s article, we will explain these differences.

WHAT IS IBERIAN HAM

First, ham is a food obtained by drying and salting the rear legs of pigs. This product is also known as shoulder when it is obtained from the front legs.

The pigs from which the ham is made can be two types, either the white race or the Iberian race. The Iberian pigs, as the name indicates, have been raised in the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal).

The Iberian pigs have unique characteristics that cannot be found in any other animals on the Earth, not even in the white race. Since this animal has the ability to infiltrate fat into his muscles, its meat is very juicy and delicious. The result is a ham with a truly unique, salty taste with a hint of acorn.

Iberian pig herd in a green meadow
Iberian pig herd in a green meadow

Serrano ham is obtained from white pigs, a product that, even though it is very good, is of quite different quality than the ham from the Iberian pigs. These white pigs can be found in any part of the planet, and as we mentioned before, they cannot penetrate fat into their muscles.

On the other hand, Iberian ham is obtained from the Iberian pig which, depending on the type of diet, is of a different quality. For example, the acorn hams are of the highest quality, since the pigs only eat acorns and other natural food, like roots and grass, from the pasture where they are elevated.

The pastures are unique ecosystems consisting of large stretches of land in which a most diverse flora and fauna coexists. In these areas, the pigs are raised in the most natural and sustainable form possible. Therefor the animals are happier and live in better conditions, and the result is excellent meat.

This way of elevating the pigs is much more respectful of the animals and the environment and represents a form of elevation that is completely opposed to that of the factory farms, where the pigs are fed with fodder and/or gras from the field.

HOW IS IBERIAN HAM REGULATED AND CLASSIFIED

In the European Union, agricultural and food products are protected and regulated by the Regulation  (CE) 1151/2012.  This normative defines the Denominations of Protected Origin (D.O.P.) in the following way: 

  • D.O.P. is a denomination used to identify a product native of a place, region, or country, the characteristics of which are entirely determined by a specific geographic environment, and whose production steps are entirely carried out within the defined geographic area.

This last point is very important, since the production, transformation and refinement must figure in the D.O.P.

In Spain, there are presently 4 regions which have declared a Denomination of Protected Origin (D.O.P.) for Iberian ham:

  • D.O.P. Guijuello. This was the first denomination to be created and is presently one of the most famous. The ham is produced in the province of Salamanca, which makes it soft and smooth due to its cold and dry climate.
  • D.O.P. Dehesa de Extremadura: These are the hams from Cárceres and Badajoz. The pigs in the zone feed from the holm oaks and cork oaks in the pastries of the zone. They have a very singular and pleasant taste, as well as a slightly fibrous texture.
  • D.O.P. Jabugo: The Jabugo ham comes from pigs elevated in the province of Huelva. This is probably one of the moust famous denominations in Spain.
  • D.O.P. Los Pedroches: This denomination is one of the most recent. The ham of this denomination is produced only in the province of Córdoba.

In the following picture, published by Jamón Lovers, you can see a map of the different regions of Spain where the Iberian and white pigs are elevated. 

Iberian ham in Spain

IBERIAN HAM LABELS

There are different ways to classify Iberian ham according to the origin of the animal and the way it is fed. These categories are brandmarked with the following colour codes:

  • White label: It is used when the pigs are Iberian but have been kept in captivity and fed with fodder.
  • Green label: It indicates that the animal is of the Iberian race, has been elevated in liberty and with a nutrition based on natural fodder.
  • Red label: It identifies the ham originating from mixed pigs elevated based on acorns. The mixed pigs are those which are not 100% Iberian.
  • Black label: It is reserved for the products of the best quality, the so-called “black leg hams”, which originate from 100% Iberian pigs fed based on acorn.

In the following picture, published by the Spanish Consumer and User Organisation (OCU), you can see the different labels used to classify the Iberian ham. 

NUTRITIONNAL PROPERTIES

Serrano ham is a food that provides different nutrients with great benefits for our diet and which, furthermore, has a great taste.

Probably the most distinguished property is that Iberian ham shares nutritional properties with olive oil thanks to the lipids it contains, which are fats found in blood. Almost half of the fat in Serrano ham are unsaturated. Therefore, regularly eating Serrano ham helps to improve your level of good cholesterol.

Furthermore, the ham contains various minerals, such as iron, which helps to prevent osteoporosis.

Among the other minerals, we can also find zinc. Therefore, Serrano ham is a food that helps develop people’s intellectuality and motor coordination.

It is also a food that enables a quick absorption of proteins, which is why it is recommended for growing people that are doing sports.

However, despite all the benefits we named, it is also recommended to consume it with moderation and not to fall into the excess since, on the other hand, Iberian ham contains a great quantity of sodium, which can have an influence on people with high blood pressure.

You can read more about de nutritional properties of the ham in the article written by Jamón Privé 

Iberian ham

THE EXPERIENCE AT AGUST BARCELONA

At Agust Barcelona, we propose a delicious plate of Iberian acorn ham “D.O.P. Extremadura” as an entry.

As we have explained in this article, this means that it is a quality product, since it comes from an Iberian pig fed based on acorn in a pastry of the region of Extremadura, a region that is specialized in the elevation and production of pigs, and which is controlled by the European Union regulation.

Plus, this ham has a very pleasant and characteristic aroma and a slightly fibrous texture, so we are sure that you will love it, and you will enjoy being able to share it with your colleagues while you stimulate your appetite and wait for the main course.

We are waiting for you in our restaurant so you can enjoy an authentic and delicious experience. Don’t miss out!