Jamón

Jamón” is Spanish for “ham”, but it is nowhere near that simple. Like matsutake aren’t just mushrooms from Japan, and Kopi Luwak isn’t just coffee from Indonesia, jamón is more than just ham from Spain.  It is a staple, a tradition and a national treasure.  The best quality jamón is treated with a reverence it’s hard to imagine outside of Spain. Hand sliced and placed on a plate like it’s gold.

Slicing Jamón
Creative Commons License photo credit: Alexa Clark

Identifying the best quality jamón starts with the following 4 criteria:

  • the type of pig
  • what the pig has been fed
  • what cut of meat is used
  • how the ham is cured.

There are 3 main types of Jamón available: Jamón York, Jamón Serrano, and Jamón Iberico.

Jamón
Creative Commons License photo credit: Alexa Clark

Jamón York – also known as jamón cocido or jamón dulce, is similar to the pink stuff you get sliced in North America, though generally much less processed, made from better quality meat and has a more intense, rich flavour. You’ll often find this used in croquetas de jamón in lieu of the higher grade jamón.

Jamón Serrano – also known as also known as jamón reserva or jamón curado, it is a dry-cured ham made from what is referred to as a “white pig”. Jamón Serrano literally translates to “mountain ham” and is called that because of the drying sheds used to hang and cure the meat which are built at high elevations to aid take advantage of the cool, dry mountain air in the curing process. [More to come on Jamón Serrano]

Jamón a Mercado de San Miguel
Creative Commons License photo credit: Alexa Clark

Jamón Ibérico – also known as pata negra or jamón jabugo, this is the highest quality, most regulated jamón available.  It is a dry-cured ham made from Ibérico pigs commonly refered to as “black pig”. Jamón Ibérico is the most expensive type of jamón and within that there are 4 separate grades of Jamón Ibérico based on what the pig has been fed. The most prized is made from Ibérico pigs finished free-range on acorns.   [More on Jamón Ibérico to come]

Certified Jamón
Creative Commons License photo credit: Alexa Clark


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