Spain is the biggest producer of Serrano ham in the world and is also one of its biggest consumers. The Spanish have a rich culture in the manufacturing and consumption of Serrano ham and it is practically a national symbol.
Many people enjoy this product, often without taking into account certain details to do so in the best way. For this reason, in order to enjoy serrano ham to the full, it is important to be aware of its nutritional value, the best ways of storing and eating it and how to cut it correctly.
Serrano ham is called so due to the fact that it is produced in high mountain areas where the low temperatures favour the curing process.
White pigs are used to make serrano ham. The main breeds used are Duroc, Landrace, Large White and Pietrain, which are breeds with a very low percentage of Iberico genetic. These pigs must be fed with pig feed and cereals made from natural products and must have reached a specific weight and breeding time to be ready for production.
During the curing process, this ham becomes lighter, containing proteins and less fat, making it a product with high nutritional value.
Serrano ham is rich in unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins B1 and B6, phosphorous, iron, potassium and zinc. It is highly recommended for the diets of high-performance athletes because the high concentration of vitamins and minerals delays the appearance of fatigue.
This ham has nutritional properties very similar to those of olive oil since it has a high level of unsaturated fats and a high percentage of oleic acids.
Types of serrano ham:
There are currently two denomination types certifying that the whole production and preparation process is controlled by the established standards and protecting consumers from being deceived by false publicity and information: Protected Denomination Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).
Hams are classified taking into account the curing period:
Bodega: between 9 and 12 months.
Reserve: between 12 and 14 months.
Grand reserve: more than 14 months. These are considered to be the best serrano hams.
It should be noted that, the longer the curing process, the deeper the nuances of aroma and taste that differentiate the quality of a ham.
Although a huge amount of ham is produced in Spain, we can find the following types of serrano hams on the market that have already been endorsed by the PDO and the PGI, this guaranteeing their quality:
PGI Jamón de Trevélez: For the production of this ham, the Landrace, Large-White and Duroc-Jersey pig breeds are used. These hams are produced in areas above 1,200 metres in the province of Granada, in the towns of Trevélez, Juviles, Busquístar, Pórtugos, La Tahá, Bubión, Capileira and Bérchules. Smaller hams are cured in a 15-month period and larger hams can take up to 24 months. Due to the low salt levels, it is considered to be the sweetest ham on the market and also stands out due to its deep red colour contrasting with the yellow fat.
PDO Jamón de Teruel: These hams originate from the province of Teruel and are mainly produced in the Albarracín, Gúdar-Javalambre and Jiloca mountain ranges. For the production of this ham, the Landrace, Large White and Duroc pig breeds are used. These pigs are fed with completely natural cereals from the same region. Jamón de Teruel is characterised by its intense red colour, juicy texture and low salt content.
PGI Jamón de Serón: The majority of this ham is produced in the province of Almeria and it is made from the meat of white pigs from the Large White, Landrace, Blanco Belga, Pietrain, Chato Murciano and Duroc breeds. Jamón de Serón is not very salty and has a bright red colour when cut. The curing process is favoured by the relatively low humidity levels experienced in Serón during the year.
To enjoy this delicious food to its full potential, it needs to be kept in the best conditions.
It is important not to cut more slices than will be consumed, since any leftover slices, if kept, will lose the original flavour of this magnificent product.
Many people keep it on the jamonero (ham holder), but the best thing to do is to cover it with a cotton cloth or sheath it in the same material and hang it by the hoof since, if it is not going to be consumed immediately, it is best to hang the ham so that the fat can flow.
The ham should be kept in a cool, dry atmosphere to preserve its flavour and aroma during as much time as possible.
The part where the ham has been cut should not be covered with anything that is not cuts of its own meat, as this can damage the piece, completely changing the original flavour.
Cutting serrano ham:
To cut serrano ham well, it is important to have good quality utensils. Three types of knives are used to cut ham: for the slices, a knife with an elongated, narrow blade, known as a ham knife, is used; for cutting the hip, a short knife is used and for the preparation and cleaning of the ham a wide blade knife is used.
Another important tool is the cutting board where the ham is placed before starting the task.
The slices of ham must be cut as finely as possible, with a uniform cut from top to bottom, taking in the whole width of the ham. The person slicing the ham must remember to not to hold the knife facing them.
Expert ham carvers say that if ham is sliced with a machine, it loses its flavour and nutrients due to the high temperature of the cutting wheel.
- How to eat ham
Serrano ham should not be eaten cold since it loses its flavour.
It can be used as an ingredient in many everyday recipes in all of our homes. Moreover, it is normally served thinly sliced with bread and tomato and a drink, such as wine.