All the Important Things You Need to Know About Jamon Serrano

We were given an insider's view to the complex and fascinating process of making Spanish ham.

ILLUSTRATOR OJ Villavieja

The Spanish jamon is but one of the many things that make Spain a delicious culinary destination. The paper-thin ham slices—with its smoky savory flavors and subtle sweet notes—are less salty than the Italian ham, making it incredibly easy to nibble on more than just one slice.

 


 

Jamon Serrano is produced and served in every province in Spain. 

 


In a recent media trip to Spain sponsored by the Interprofesional Porcino de Capa Blanca (Interporc) or the Spanish White Pork Meat Association, we were given an insider’s view to the white pork meat industry and the complex and fascinating process of making Spanish jamon.



Spain is famous for being the farm of Europe and the country produces large amounts of olive oil, wine, and of course, white pork meat. White pork meat—from which jamon serrano and chorizo is made— is Spain’s biggest exported product and there are around 86,000 farms generating more than 280,000 jobs across several regions. According to Oscar Delgado of the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, “Spain has exported 500,000 tons of pork in 2016, so far.” In 2015, they logged a record high of exporting 1.7 million tons of pork!




 

Here are a few interesting facts about the delicious jamon serrano:



1 Not all cured meat can be called jamon serrano.


The process of dry-curing jamon serrano is based on age-old Spanish traditions. Serrano means of “of the Sierra” or “of the mountains” and the white pork meat is hung to dry, and the curing process spans several seasons from winter to autumn: allowing the pork meat to experience temperature and humidity changes gradually, transforming the pork into smoky delicious cured ham.  

 


 

Large facilities are able to replicate the traditional curing method for jamon serrano.



2 Modern facilities in Spain are now able to replicate the traditional curing method using modern technology.


Large cutting and drying facilities in Spain now use modern technology to replicate climate conditions for curing jamon serrano with high standards of quality and uniformity. Some facilities such as Incarlopsa in Cuenca, Toledo debone and process a minimum of 10,000 pigs a day.  An equally large facility, Olot Meats Group in Girona located in the northeastern part of Spain, produces cooked ham, 80% of which goes to international markets including the Philippines.



3 Different drying and cutting facilities use different recipes for their jamon serrano.


While all drying and cutting facilities all employ high standards of quality and uniformity, they use different recipes in their jamon serrano. At Incarlopsa, part of the curing process is spreading pork lard on each leg to ensure that the pork does not get infected with bacteria.

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In the family-run facility, FACCSA (Frigorificos Andaluces de Conservas de Conservas de Carne), in Malaga, Spain, the pork legs are cured with a more apparent coating of mold. This is scraped off in the last stages of the dry-curing but gives their brand of ham a distinct flavor profile.

 

Jamon serrano is available in several pork cuts: bone-in and boneless whole ham, boneless and bone-in paletas (shoulders), lomos or pork loins, or chorizo and salchichónes (sausages).



Jamon serrano can also be added to your fave tapas dishes:

Topped with Spanish ham and crisp breadcrumbs, this pairs deliciously with a glass of refreshing white wine.



 

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