Spanish cured ham varieties: which one to buy?
Not everything is what it seems: the truth about Spanish ham
Spanish jamon (ham) is THE delicacy you need to try when visiting Spain. Forget about prosciutto or any other ham you’ve tried before: here you can get the real thing. And locals have it all the time!
Unfortunately, choosing your Spanish cured ham right is not that easy: there are so many Spanish ham types and varieties that it’s easy to get lost in translation. But don’t worry, today we’ve got you covered: we are going to explain in an easy and understandable way what each jamon “name” means and what should you expect or be aware of when buying or ordering it. Let’s get started!
Spanish jamon types you need to know about:
Jamon Serrano ham. Despite probably being the most famous Spanish ham… it’s actually not that good. It’s the basic Jamon made from white pigs that haven’t eaten any acorns. In shops, ordering Serrano Jamon means you want the regular and cheap one, not the really good one. It’s the one Spaniards buy to make sandwiches for their kids, but not as an adult treat.
Iberico ham. The Iberian ham is made from black Iberian pigs or cross pigs (they have to be at least 75% Iberian breed). We can find lots of different Iberian ham depending on the fattening process before slaughter. The more acorns the pigs eat, the better the jamon iberico will be. A mix of acorns and fooder (recebo) means less quality. Plus as for the utmost quality, Origin Denominations also make a difference. So keep reading to know how to choose your best Iberico ham.
Pata negra ham. Black Iberian pigs have black legs, that’s why many Spaniards used to call Iberian Ham “Pata negra ham”. Unfortunately, lots of other non Iberian breeds have black legs too, and some producers breeding non iberian pigs with black legs benefited of this famous name (or plainly cheated). As a result, Pata negra can’t be considered a synonym for iberian ham anymore.
Bellota ham. Jamon Iberico Bellota is the way acorns are said in Spanish and “Jamon puro de bellota” is the best ham you can find. Bellota ham must be from Black Iberian pigs 100% pure Iberian breed having been feed only with acorns or in pasture areas during the final 3 or 4 months of mast-feeding.
Jabugo ham. Jabugo is the town in Huelva (South of Spain) where Jabugo ham comes from. And Jabugo ham is the Iberian ham grown up and cured in the Jabugo region. It’s said that this area is the best to cured and dry ham as it has an ideal micro climate. They use 100% Iberian free-ranging pigs, feed with pasture areas and acorns during mast-feeding. In this post we tell you where to buy the best spanish ham.
But wait! What does “paletilla” mean? Should you buy it?
Paletilla versus Jamón. The main difference is that the Jamón is made from the back legs of the pigs, and Paletillas are the forelegs. Back legs are bigger than forelegs and they have less fat, what affects directly the ham’s aroma and the taste. But choosing one over the other is a matter of taste. Some people say that Paletilla is more tasty because of the fat. Instead, Jamon fans swear that Jamon has more complex and delicate aromas. In any case, whether you choose Paletilla or Jamon, make sure that is Iberian!
So what about you? Head to the comments below and tells us: Have you ever tried the real Spanish ham and did you like it?