MAKING SENSE OF ALL THE DIFFERENT SPANISH HAM NAMES
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.
Spanish ham types, varieties and grades:
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.
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.
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 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.
AND BONUS! 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!
Have you ever tried the authentic Spanish ham?
Marta is the founder of ForeverBarcelona. She is a passionate tour guide that loves Barcelona and loves writing too. She is the main author of our Blog, and is committed to sharing her knowledge about Barcelona and her best tips with our readers.
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