Flavors of Spain - Jamon

Jamon

Background: Jamon

It’s difficult to convey how incredible, how compelling, how smooth and sensitive the flavor of Jamon Iberico is. A delicacy like none other, the texture is tender, and yet this extraordinarily fine meat is lean, healthy and actually relatively low in the “bad” cholesterol. Quite simply, Jamon is the jewel of the Spanish Cuisine.

Spain is the cradle of the Jamon, a millenary tradition recognized by food connoisseurs worldwide. The pride of Spain’s renowned Culinary Tradition, from Tapas to today’s more sophisticated cuisine, Serrano ham provokes an explosion of sensations. The flavor is sweet, earthy and less salty than prosciutto, but rich in flavor. While slicing Jamon may be done on a deli slicer, the true purists insist on it being sliced by hand. Slicing a cured Iberian Ham is taken so seriously in fact, that competitions are held in Castile for the best ham carvers. Slicing with the grain is the preferred method using a long, narrow, and flexible knife (similar to a fillet knife.)

Jamon Types*

The unique vocabulary surrounding Spanish hams can be daunting initially, until you understand the three key variables used to classify Spanish hams: pig breed, diet and cut.

Pig Breed & Diet Ibérico Breed Pigs

There are four classifications of Jamón Ibérico, made from the Ibérico breed pig. The classifications reflect the breed of pig, the percent of pure Ibérico genetics in the pig and the quantity of acorns they eat (the word "acorns" is translated as “bellota”).

-Jamón 100% Ibérico de Bellota - made from free-range, 100% Ibérico breed pigs that eat acorns.

Ibérico de Bellota hams are from Ibérico pigs that live outdoors most of their lives and spend the last three to four months of their lives feasting on rich, sweet acorns that have dropped from the ground from holm and cork trees in the meadows of a region called the dehesa. This period of grazing on the open range is called the montanera, and the pigs add about half their weight during this period.

The coveted hams they produce are unique in the world: beautiful nutty ham slices which glisten when they are served because 60% of their marbled fat contains healthy mono triglycerides (like olive oil) that melt at room temperature. Because of its quality, many connoisseurs have referred to Jamón Ibérico de Bellota as the "Beluga caviar of hams."

-Jamón Ibérico de Bellota - made from crossbred free-range Ibérico pigs (crossed with Duroc pigs) that eat acorns. The percentage (%) of Ibérico breed must be added to the label.

-Jamón Ibérico Cebo de Campo - made from crossbred free-range Ibérico pigs that eat a mix of fodder and acorns.

-Jamón Ibérico Cebo or simply Jamón Ibérico - made from farm-raised, crossbred Ibérico pigs that only eat fodder.

Duroc & Landrace Breed Pigs

Jamón Serrano comes from white pigs of the Duroc or Landrace breeds. These pigs are raised on farms, rather than open ranges, and fed a diet of cereals. They are cured in Spain for 8 months to two years.

Jamón Cuts

Cured meats from Spain are usually referred to by the following names, whether made from Ibérico pigs or others. The Ibérico versions of each of these cuts only became available in the U.S. in 2007.

-Jamón (back leg, bone-in or boneless)

-Paleta (front leg or shoulder, bone-in or boneless)

-Lomo (cured pork loin)

-Chorizo, Salchichón, Fuet, Butifarra, Morcilla, Longaniza and Sarta (types of sausage)

Other Classifications

Just as with wines, some hams now carry a Denominación de Origin, indicating where and how the ham was cured. There are also quality seals, from industry groups like the Consorcio del Jamón Serrano Español, on jamones that deliver the quality and flavors synonymous with specific guidelines.

Recipe: Croquetas de Jamon y Pollo (Ham and Chicken Croquettes) view recipe>>

30 minutes preparation, 10 minutes cooking on the stove, 15 frying in a deep fryer

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*Source: jamon.com