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Spanish jamon serrano

Serrano Ham (Jamón Serrano)

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Peñajamon Serrano Ham from Teruel
Peñajamon Serrano Ham from Teruel starting at £89.37 jamon weighing 7.25 kg
Stock: 30 jamones see all weights
bone-in, boneless or sliced
 
Serrano Shoulders
Bone-in, Boneless & Sliced
Gran Reserva Ciurana Bodega Serrano Ham
Gran Reserva Ciurana Serrano Ham starting at £121.04 jamon weighing 7 kg
Stock: 10 jamones see all weights
bone-in, boneless or sliced
 
Serrano Hams
Bone-in, Boneless & Sliced

Jamon is the result of curing (salting and drying) the hind leg of a pig. Jamon Serrano means "ham from the sierra", referring to the mountainous areas that are the best places for curing hams. The product is known as a shoulder (paletilla) when it is made with the foreleg.

The jamón serrano designation has been protected as a Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) since 1999 under the European Union Regulation 509/2006.

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Characteristics of the raw material

Jamon Serrano in a drying room
Jamon Serrano (left) and hams in a drying room (right)
Photo: Consorcio del Jamón Serrano Español

Hams are the hind legs of pigs. They include the hip, femur, patella, tibia, fibula, tarsal bones and, optionally, metatarsals and phalanges, and the muscle and fat surrounding them.

The entire curing process, from slaughter to drying, takes place according to current European Union legislation (Directives 64/433/CEE and 77/99/CEE).

The most commonly used breeds are Duroc, Pietrain, Landrace and Large White, fed a diet of compound feeds made mostly of cereals. The pigs do not necessarily have to be of Spanish origin; the jamón serrano TSG is a EU regulation that covers only the processing method.

Types of Jamon Serrano

Labels and seals of the different types of serrano ham
Left to right: official identification of the Protected Designation of Origin and logo of the Jamón de Teruel Regulatory Board; official identification of the Protected Geographical Indication and logo of the Jamón de Trevélez Regulatory Board; identification of the Traditional Speciality Guaranteed and logos of the two main producers' associations (Fundación Jamón Serrano and Consorcio del Jamón Serrano Español).

Although all types of Spanish hams are known internationally as "Jamon Serrano", in Spain the term is usually used for hams from pigs not belonging to the Iberian breed (typically white pigs).

Serrano ham is also popularly known as "country ham", "local ham", or "cured ham".

The following are the basic determining factors for types of Serrano ham:

Place

The climate conditions in some parts of Spain facilitate long curing times without using much salt.

Grade (not applicable to hams from Teruel or Trevélez)

The longer the drying time, the higher the grade, because aging imparts stronger, richer aromas.

Making Jamon Serrano

Jamon Serrano maturing
Jamon Serrano maturing

After the pig is butchered and the hams removed, the temperature inside each piece is brought down to 3º C, and any blood remaining in the vessels is drawn off using a pressure process.

Salting

The hams are rubbed with nitrifying salts and then covered with sea salt to remove the moisture and preserve them.

The salting time depends on the weight, fat content and shape of the ham and ranges from 0.65 to 2 days per kilogram of ham weight. The temperature is kept between 0 and 4º C and relative humidity between 75 and 95% throughout this time.

Before salting, the week and year of salting are fire-stamped on the rind.

Washing - Brushing

The salt residue on the ham's surface is removed using brushes. The salt must be eliminated from the outside so the ham will not be too salty and to ensure that it will not inhibit the growth of bacterial flora.

Once the ham is left without the protection of the salt it is subject to bacterial contamination, environmental agents and parasites and may spoil. This is why it is so important to keep the facilities spotlessly clean and maintain a very low temperature.

At this stage the ham is still tender and occasionally it is reshaped to make it look more attractive.

Settling (also known as resting (reposo) or post-salting (postsalado))

During this stage the salt spreads uniformly throughout the inside of the ham, inhibiting undesired microbial growth and channeling the biochemical processes of hydrolysis (lipolysis and proteolysis) that give the hams their characteristic aroma and taste.

Over a period of 30 to 60 days the water content gradually diminishes and the hams acquire greater external consistency.

The temperature is kept low (between 0º and 6º C) and the relative humidity high (between 70% and 95%).

Drying - Maturing

While the hams are drying the temperature is raised gradually from 6º to 34º C and the relative humidity is lowered to between 60% and 80%. This favors slow drying of the hams, sweating (natural diffusion of part of the fat from the adipose tissues) and the emergence of aromas caused by alterations in proteins and fats.

The hams spend at least four months in this stage.

Aging (also known as refining)

During this period, which lasts from 6 to 18 months, the biochemical processes initiated earlier continue, with the intervention of the microbial flora that gives the hams their particular aroma and taste. Every Jamon Serrano is cured for more than seven months.

When the hams come out of the aging room they have lost at least 33% of their initial weight and can be stored at ambient temperature until they are eaten, without needing to be smoked or coated with paprika or other spices. A whole Serrano ham has no expiry date, although it is best to eat it within six months after it comes from the aging room.

Characteristics of Jamon Serrano

Close-up of the V-shape cut of a ham
Ham with a V-shaped cut. The skin is removed from the lower part of the ham by cutting in a V shape, which is also known as the Serrano cut.
Photo: Consorcio del Jamón Serrano Español

The characteristic color of the slices ranges from rosy to purplish red in the lean part. The meat is smooth and tender with a delicate, very slightly salty taste. The maximum water content is 60% (in Iberian hams it is above 50-55%) and the maximum sodium chloride content is 15% (in Iberian hams it is 5%). Jamon Serrano is therefore less dry and more salty than Iberian ham.

The fat is glossy, white or yellowish and aromatic, with a pleasing taste. It is found on the outside edge of the slice, except in hams from Duroc pigs, which have thin streaks of marbling fat in the flesh.

Outer appearance

Serrano hams are sold in several formats:

Nutritional properties of Jamon Serrano

*UFA/SFA: Unsaturated Fatty Acids / Saturated Fatty Acids (good cholesterol / bad cholesterol)
Source: Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente (PDF)

More information on the nutritional properties of ham.

See also

Iberian and Serrano hams in Spain

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