Spanish Tapas

Choosing Serrano ham

How to buy your ham

Choosing serrano ham is the easy bit. You can buy it by the slice, by the kilo or buy the whole leg - it’s up to your personal taste and the depth of your pocket!

There is no difference in quality between a slice of serrano or a whole ham - as long as you buy it from a reputable supplier who knows how to keep it properly and ensures that the carved hams don’t dry out.

Click the image above for a great selection of Serrano and Ibérico hams from people who really know how to keep it.

Serrano ham facts

There are many producers and qualities of Serrano hams but the main differences in quality can be catagorised down to four basic things:

  • The type of pig it comes from.
  • The way that pig is fed.
  • How the ham is cured.
  • Which of its legs you buy.

The differences in quality.

The four main catagories of ham are as follows, highest first:

  1. Jamón Iberico de Bellota (also known as Jamón Iberico de Montanera). Free-range, acorn-fed Iberian pigs.
  2. Jamón Iberico de Recebo. Acorn, pasture and compound-fed Iberian pigs.
  3. Jamón Iberico (also known as Jamón de Pata Negra). Compound-fed Iberian pigs.
  4. Jamón Serrano (also known as Jamón Reserva, Jamón Curado and Jamón Extra). Compound-fed white pigs.

You can learn more about what gives these hams their different flavour characteristics by looking at the feeding and breeding page.

The cut of the ham

The back legs are the heaviest, the better quality and the most expensive. These are called the ‘jamon’ and weigh between 6 to 8 kilos. The front leg is smaller and has more fat. These are called the ‘paleta’ and weigh between 4 to 6 kilos.

Strictly speaking, you shouldn’t call a paleta a ham but, when it’s on your plate or filling your mouth with flavour, who cares?

Up until now the highest-quality 'Iberico' and 'bellota' hams have not been available in the USA but now, at last, these superb hams are available to special order.

For a more in-depth look at Spanish pigs, curing the meat and what gives the hams their different qualities see the page on feeding and breeding below.

The Denominaciónes de Origen of Serrano hams

Storing, carving and eating your ham

Feeding and breeding of the ham

Curing and maturing of the ham

Serrano ham and health

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