What Jamón should you choose: "Pata Negra", Ibérico or Serrano?
It is the main question when buying a Spanish Jamón, depending whether it is for home consumption, a special occasion, or as a nice present.
The variety of Spanish Jamón is large and the price range as well; in many cases it will become a complex decision, especially if it is your first time. Through this article we share a complete shopping guide to help you making the right decission while introducing yourself into the knowledge of this wonder of the Spanish gastronomy.
Following sections of the guide:
- Jamón types: Jamón Ibérico de Bellota "Pata Negra", Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, Jamón Ibérico and Jamón Serrano.
- Packaging format: Whole piece, boneless or sliced and vacuum-packed.
TYPES OF JAMÓN
The first thing you need to address is the kind of Jamón you could like the most or suits your needs the better. In Spain we find basically two breeds: Duroc and Ibérico. The Jamón types are mainly determined by the different combinations between them:
- Jamón 100% Ibérico
- Jamón Ibérico: 50% Ibérico/50% Duroc or 75% Ibérico/25% Duroc
- Jamón Serrano: white breed or 100% Duroc
Jamón Ibérico de Bellota "Pata Negra"
The Jamón "Pata Negra" is the undisputed king of the ham. It is one of the most valuable culinary products in the world for lovers of fine foods.
All "Pata Negra" pieces must have a black label around the ankle with a barcode, through which we can check their traceability. The pigs are reared in freedom on the pasture and the basis of their diet is acorn (bellota).
It's a ham with a strong flavor that lasts long, with a balanced and very delicious taste, which makes it really hard not to eat another slice.
Jamón Ibérico de Bellota-Ibérico Bellota Schinken
Jamón from the Iberian breed, which have been crossed in different proportions with Duroc breed. Also reared free-range in the Dehesa, their main food is acorn (bellota). They tend to be bigger pieces than the "Pata Negra", as the Duroc breed produces bigger pigs.
It is an excellent option, as it is ham of a quality that comes very close to the "Pata Negra" one, but at a cheaper price range. It must have a red label around the ankle.
Jamón Ibérico de Cebo de Campo (Grass-fed)
Jamón from the Iberian breed, which have been crossed in different proportions with Duroc. The pigs are reared free-range in the Dehesa and feed on natural forage, herbs and roots from the field. These ham must have a green label around the ankle.
It is the perfect ham for those looking for an excellent price-quality ratio, ideal to enter the world of Iberian ham.
Jamón Serrano "Gran Reserva"
There are also various combinations of breed and curation periods within the Serrano variety. In this case, we recommend the Gran Reserva one, with a curation period of more than 14 months. It is the highest quality among Jamón Serrano.
The Gran Reserva Serrano ham is a great ham, which you can have at home and consume more often. It is the ham that most Spaniards consume daily at home, as it has a much more affordable price than Iberian ham. It's a ham with a simple but delicious flavor, which is salty in just the right amount.
As soon as you have chosen the type of Jamón, you will need to choose the most suitable format:
- Whole piece.
- Boneless piece.
- Ham sliced and vacuum-packed
It is the most traditional way to buy a Jamón, and the usual way the Spaniards have it at home. You have to take into account you need a ham holder and a special knife to cut it properly.
It is the right ham for tradition lovers and their rituals. For many people, the preparation and the process are pretty relevant. The slicing style and the presentation of the Jamon are considered an art expression itself.
Boneless pieces are easier and faster to cut, but you need a cutting machine at home or a special holder for boneless pieces.
Another advantage is that the knife stays sharp longer, as it does not get contact with the bone or the crust.
The biggest inconvenience is that it dries faster than the whole piece. Therefore, it is not recommended if it is not going to be consumed quickly after removal from the vacuum bag in which it is packed.
Hand sliced and vacuum-packed
This is undoubtedly the most practical format to consume Jamón, as it is very versatile in any situation. You can consume it without additional accessories. It also has the advantage of saving a lot of space. You can cut an entire piece and pack it in 100g packs in you fridge. It doesn't take more than a shelf in the fridge.
Another advantage is that you can buy exactly the amount of Jamón you need, from a single pack to an entire piece. Finally, you can easily keep it in optimal condition in your fridge for up to 6 months before you open it.
I hope that with all this information you will be able to better decide which Jamón you want to buy and in which format. If you have any questions, you can contact us any time and we will be happy to assist you.
If you have come this far, it is because you are interested in Spanish cuisine or its culture. If you would like to learn other recipes, you can Subscribe to our Newsletter, through which we keep you informed every week. In our online shop you will find products such as Jamón Serrano, Jamón Pata Negra, products for the preparation of tapas and paellas, Olive Oil or Wines from several regions of the Iberian Peninsula.