Jamón Ibérico is a unique product in the world that can only be obtained from the Iberian pig breed of our peninsula. This fact is the reason why in our country we have been dedicated for centuries to the dry-curing of their meat, thus we have become experts of the best product made in Spain.
Do you want to become a real expert too? Then, get to know the types of Jamón Ibérico and start getting to know the Jamón culture from the inside. It’s a pleasure for Enrique Tomás to be able to explain it to you!
Types of Jamón Ibérico according to the pig’s diet
The Iberian pig is a very characteristic breed that results in an exquisite meat thanks to the way in which fat infiltrates its muscle tissue. All Iberian pigs feed on animal fodder until they reach 100 kg of weight and from that moment onwards, the producer, based on the quantity of hams (jamones) and ham shoulders (paletas) of Bellota (acorn) or Cebo (feed) that he wishes to market, will decide which pigs are taken to the pasture during the Montanera season, a period that takes place from October to February where pigs roam freely in the pastures.
Types of Jamón
The Jamón Ibérico de cebo is obtained from pigs fattened with fodder, which is why they are called Iberico de cebo. The acorn-fed (bellota) Iberian pigs, on the other hand, come from pigs that have made the Montanera season, a name with which the last fattening phase of pigs is known and which takes place from October to February in the Spanish meadows.
During the winter, the pigs are released into the wild where they feed on acorn and herbs. Thanks to the capacity of Iberian pigs to infiltrate fat into the muscle, a diet based on acorns and natural products and the activity that animals do during these almost five months, their front and back legs acquire the characteristics that make their meat so juicy and delicious.
Apart from these two main types, there is a third Jamón Ibérico known as Jamón Ibérico de Cebo de Campo, in this case, the pig has been freely grazing in the pasture, but has not gained weight enough with acorns and grasses, and it has been fed with more aninal fodder and cereals, in a controlled way, to reach its optimum weight to be used for the Jamón production.
But what pigs are destined for the Montanera season? As we have already explained, it depends on the amount of hams and ham shoulders that the producer wants to be of acorn-fed type. If he wants to produce 100 hams and 100 ham shoulders, he will take 50 pigs to the pasture. So, when we talk about the types of Jamón Ibérico, we refer to these three categories, Iberico de Cebo, Iberico de cebo de campo or Bellota (acorn-fed), but is it the only way to differentiate Jamón Ibérico from one another? No, it also depends on the pig’s origin.
Types of Iberian hams according to the origin of the pigs
In Spain there are four areas where ham is produced: Salamanca, Huelva, Cáceres-Badajoz and Córdoba and the experts of each area share among themselves a series of guidelines that make the taste of all the local hams have similar aromas and nuances.
- The Jamón of Salamanca: also known as Jamón from Guijuelo because this town is the top national producer. It tends to be softer and more delicate than other areas for a very simple reason, hams from Salamanca are kept drying longer than those from other regions and therefore have less salt. As this ingredient (salt) acts as a flavor intensifier, because their Jamón is less time in contact with it, the flavour of the Jamón is softer.
- The Jamón of Huelva: the famous Jabugo ham, name given to it by its denomination of origin, follows a completely natural drying process that it is carried out in this way taking advantadge of the microclimate of the Sierra de Huelva. To control it, the “cooks”, as we like to call Jamón producers in Enrique Tomas, open and close the windows of the dryer zones as they deem appropiate and this process results in a dry-curing process with a very strong and long-lasting taste.
- Jamón of Cáceres-Badajoz: hams with the Extremadura designation of origin are not only produced there but also pigs graze in the same region where they come from, and it is the biodiversity of the area that gives rise to such an aromatic and explosive ham, “cooked” in the best possible way.
- Jamón of Córdoba: these hams with the name of Valle de los Pedroches are produced in the same place where the pigs they come from are fed and raised (exactly like the afore-metioned category), and it is the biological richness of the area that makes the taste of hams from Córdoba so tasty and intense, that is to say, so unmistakable.
What characteristics do all types of Iberian ham share?
All the Iberian hams are obtained from the same animal, the Iberian pigs reared in our peninsula, have a number of shared aspects. Regarding its physical appearance, it should be taken into account that all have long snout, black hair and more stylized legs (some with a black hoof), which explains why it is popularly known as Jamón Pata Negra (black hoof). This genetic factor is what makes that once the product is dry-cured, it can be distinguished at first sight from a white pig (serrano), although it should be noted that not all Iberian pigs must necessarily have the black hoof, they may have it not and be Iberian breed anyway.
With regard to the ham obtained from them, the colour of their meat varies between pink and red tones and, thanks to the infiltration of fat, each slice is juicy, with aromas and nuances very different from those of the Serrano. In addition, the Iberian bacon is brighter and more oily than this other type of Jamón.
So, thanks to the fact that you already know the characteristics of each type of Jamón Ibérico, choose the one that best suits you and enjoy all its flavor with your family and friends