Cured ham is serious business in Spain, and buying a whole pig’s leg is a quintessential Spanish tradition at Christmas. They’re generally delicious but can cost a lot of money, so knowing your ‘serranos’ from your ‘ibéricos’ is essential to not getting ripped off.
Buying Jamon for Christmas is a national obsession in Spain, with around six million being sold each year. Jamon is available for sale in shops with prices from 40 euros up to hundreds and with so many brands being available its hard to know which one is best.
Here are some points to help select the right Jamon:
All legs of Jamon sold in Spain come with a label that states its quality category.
All Jamon is classed as either Jamon Serrano or Jamon Iberico, with Iberico being the most expensive of the two varieties. Jamon Iberico comes from Spanish black pigs, which only eat acorns. This and the fact that they are cured in a more artisanal way makes them more valuable:
- According to the experts, a black label on the pig’s leg designates as a 100% acorn-fed pig and is the best Jamon you can buy.
- A red label is for acorn-fed Iberian pigs that are cross-bred with lower quality Duroc Jersey pigs.
- A green label is for pigs, even if they are Iberican that have been reared on farms and whose diet is grass and feed rather than all acorns.
- A white seal identifies the Iberian Jamon of 100%, 75%, or 50% Iberian breed pigs fed with feed, cereals, and legumes in farms.
On the labeling, you will also notice that it will say what percentage of the Pig is Iberican measuring it as either 100%, 75%, or 50%.
What about Jamon Serrano?
While not as tasty as Jamon Iberico, Jamon Serrano is still delicious and much less expensive than the leg of an Iberican pig. The general rule with Serrano ham is that the longer it is cured, the better it will taste.
The standard curing process for Jamon Serrano is nine months, while Jamon Reserva is cured for 15 months.