by jamonify

Serrano ham and Ibérico ham

Published : 10/7/2015 23:53:31
Categories : Iberico Acorn fed Ham, pure Pata Negra. Rss feed

Serrano ham and Ibérico ham

The two qualities of spanish ham: Serrano ham and Ibérico ham

 

When we are talking ham you can only think in adjectives which vary from good to the best, including better and very good. What do I mean? I mean talking ham whatever the type is we have to talk about impressive quality (it can be a humble cured Serrano ham or any Ibérico type) it is such a great quality delicatessen that always fulfils the palate with an extraordinary taste and adds prestige to well served table.

 

If we should distinguish between Serrano ham and Ibérico ham I shall say the first difference for any consumer whether used to ham or not is price. Serrano ham is much cheaper than Ibérico ham. In absolute term it is quite understandable but in relative terms the difference does not exist as it is like comparing pears to apples. Let me explain myself: Ibérico ham has to fulfil many quality conditions to qualify as Ibérico ham like the breeding of the pigs, the feeding of the pigs on acorns and the careful production and long aging of Ibérico ham. This whole process makes the price of Ibérico ham more expensive than Serrano ham but speaking qualitatively and in terms of value Ibérico ham rules.

 

Another difference for the inexperienced consumer is the physical appearance , Ibérico ham shows in the outer side a V shape which means the pig skin has almost vanished and you can see through it the fat which as an ivory tone which is a characteristic of  these hams. Another distinctive feature of Ibérico ham is the dark colour almost black of the hoof. Please note that many Ibérico hams have dark hoofs but not all of them possess this feature. Serrano ham normally does not bear this but these characteristics cannot rule out an Ibérico ham with white hoofs.

 

The connoisseurs know that best clue to identify a pure Ibérico ham is fat.The fat of Ibérico hams has to be soft, if you press your fingers against they should almost sink into it and it has a soft touch, meanwhile the Serrano ham fat has a white colour and it is harder to the touch. The difference of both fats is the quantity of unsaturated fat; Ibérico ham has more unsaturated fat than Serrano ham. You will need practice to master the “touching “ of fat.

 

ham pregnancy

  

Finally the Ibérico ham slices has bright white layers of fat, which increase the aroma, the taste and give a shiny aspect to the slice of ham, moreover they help to melt the slice in your mouth leaving a perfect round meaty aftertaste. Serrano ham does not possess this feature.

 

serrano patanegra ham

These are characteristic you can distinguish visually, but at the beginning I wrote about breeding, feeding and curing process as the three main differences between Serrano ham and Ibérico ham.

 

In Spain commercially there are many pig breedings but only the Iberian pig breeding is capable to achieve the quality for Iberico hams, for this reason no one will feed acorn to any other pig breeding than Iberian pig as it will be a waste of time and money. The final result may be a good Serrano ham at most but that is all. So as I am saying breed and feeding go hand in hand, and feeding will determine the quality of the Ibérico ham too, as they are acorn fed Iberian pigs, acorn-fodder fed Iberian pigs and the lowest quality fodder fed Iberian pigs. Let´s compare the feeding of pigs intended for Serrano ham and the feeding of Iberian pigs intended for Ibérico ham in his three levels acorn fed, acorn-fodder fed and just fodder fed.

 

- Acorn Ibérico ham (also called de montanera as Iberian pigs roam free in the Woods) the pig has to be at least 14 months old to be sacrificed and raised free in the woods, roaming free and eating herbs, cereals and acorn. The pig after the 10th month will be feeding only on acorns and the weight will increment from an average of 80.5-115 kg to 130.5 – 145 kilograms.

- Acorn –fodder Ibérico ham (called recebo as its feeding mixes acorn and fodder), the Iberian pig will roam free the first 10 months feeding on herbs and acorns, afterwards it will be fed with fodder instead of acorn and its weight gain will be average of 28.75 kg. It will be feeding on fodder until its slaughtering.

 

-  Fodder Iberico ham (called cebo); the pig will be fed all its lifespan with fodder when it roams wild and fodder and leguminous plants until its slaughtering. For the cebo Iberico ham the slaughtering age is just 10 months.

 

On the other hand Serrano ham is made from other pig breedings not the Iberian pig and the feeding is based on fodder (mainly made by corn and other cereals), that makes Serrano ham offer a lower quality of meat than Ibérico ham.

 

The next step in making the finest Ibérico ham is dry curing. The longer the dry curing the better the quality of the hams is.

 

Curing

Ibérico ham

Curing process of Ibérico hams will follow these steps:

 

1. Salting.

2. Rinsing.

3. Post-rinsing.

4. Dry curing.

5. Aging.

This whole process time should take at least 425 days.

 

Let´s compare the curing process of Serrano ham and Ibérico ham.

 

SERRANO HAM

IBERICO HAM

WEIGHT

 

Each ham will weigh on average 9.5 kg with bone and 9.2 kg boneless. Its exterior fat thickness will be 0.8 centimeters or more.

Hams weigh around 7.5 to 8.5 kg with bone.

SALTING

Made with sea salt once the hams are treated on surface with sodium nitrite to preserve them against bacteriae. Salting will last 0.65 to 2 days for every kilo of the ham at a temperature of 0-4ºC y and 75 to 95% humidity.

Made with sea salt once the hams are treated on surface with sodium nitrite to preserve them against bacteriae.  Salting will be done 2 days for every kilo of the ham at a temperature of 0-4ºC y and 75 to 95% humidity.

WASHING/RINSING

The ham is cleaned from its exterior salt coating.

The ham is cleaned from its exterior salt coating.

CURING

Water within the ham will be lost during the curing process keeping the ham for 40 days a temperature of 0-4ºC y and 75 to 95% humidity

Same process but made more thoroughly for perfect dehydration.

MATURATION

Temperature will be slowly going up from 6ºC to 34ºC and humidity will be lowered to 60-80%.

 

Same process as in Serrano ham

AGING

This way the processes continue adding its singular taste and aroma

Aging time is just 210 days.

 

Aging time should be at least 425 days.

 

 

 

As you have read aging is really important and will give more quality, even if the aging process between Serrano ham and Ibérico ham are the same, the days of aging are not 425 days for Ibérico ham instead of Serrano ham 210 days. This big difference in aging time plus pig breeding and feeding make a phenomenal difference in taste between the two hams and you can feel it in your mouth.

 

I have read one more time that finding the perfect Ibérico ham taste is kind of utopic; I can state that the best Ibérico ham is a pleasure from the gods and will satisfy even the most demanding palate. I realise that due to the careful process and long aging time its cost can be high but the value it is worth. Now vacuum sliced packaging technology has allowed Ibérico ham to be an affordable luxury for each of us. You can buy an 80 to 100 grams packaging and store at the fridge to feast on it whenever you want. For all this features Ibérico ham should be declared part of World Heritage due to its quality, process and artisanal roots

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