Culture, Mediterranean diet



A high-quality, air-dried ham is always a welcome delicacy in Spain. Whether it’s a weekend, a holiday, or to enjoy it with family and friends with a glass of Rioja or a cold Cerveza, it doesn’t need an occasion. It is always lovingly presented on a plate, served as a delicious pintxo or added to the many typical dishes.

Spanish hams such as Jamón Serrano or Jamón Ibérico have represented culinary specialties for centuries and are a true symbol of the country’s identity thanks to their delicious aromas. With a long tradition, they are considered one of the most famous flagships of Iberian cuisine. The art of traditional aging techniques is part of the gastronomic heritage that has survived for centuries to this day.

The term “Serrano” comes from “Sierra”, the Spanish word for mountains, and refers to the tradition of mountain farmers, in the high plateaux of the Pyrenees or the Cantabrian Mountains, where the cold, dry climate favors not only the aging process but also gives it a very special and typical taste.



Ham has always been obtained and preserved by air drying without losing its mild and intense flavor. Today, the maturing process takes place in bodegas as a special maturing cellar, which lasts from several months to over a year, depending on the type of ham. Due to the longer maturation period, Serrano ham loses a comparatively large amount of its fresh weight, which gives it its unmistakable aroma.

The selection is so varied and the price range so wide, that it can be difficult to decide. A whole ham is the traditional and common way the Spaniards keep it at home. This requires a special holder, the soporte jamonero, and a knife, the cuchillo jamonero, designed to cut deliciously thin slices. In the world of ham, slicing and presentation is an art in its own right that has to be learned.

What is the main difference between Jamón Serrano and Jamón Ibérico?

Although both hams are obtained from the hind legs of the animal, the main difference lies in the breed: Serrano ham comes from white or non-Iberian pigs that have been fed on fodder, legumes, and grains. The Iberian ham, on the other hand, comes from pigs that have been fed exclusively with acorns, which provide the nutty taste, and natural herbs from rearing to slaughter. Although these may be crossed with another breed of pig, the resulting pork must still consist of at least 75 percent Ibérico.

Read the full article in Issue 26

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