Our Hamazing Ham
We at HAMAZING love our ham. LOVE IT. And chorizo. Can't get enough of it! However, as with any product, quality can vary dramatically and nowhere is this more important than food produce. At HAMAZING we want our customers to know that all our suppliers are vetted and only stock the highest quality products. In fact, we're so keen for our beloved customers to be one ahead of the pack in the world of Spanish jamón that we've put together a comprehensive beginner's guide. Salud!
Spain's Gastronomic Jewel
Spanish ham is known worldwide for its outstanding qualities. The glistening ivory-white fatty deposits contrast with the intense red muscular meat. The ham has a sweet, caramelised sugar aroma and is soft and velvety to the touch. When the succulent ham hits your tongue the taste buds leap in to life revealing nutty & dried fruit undertones as the juicy wafer-thin ham literally melts in your mouth. There’s a reason why food critics have used Spanish ham and gastronomic orgasm in the same sentence.
Production as it should be: artisan, free-range, healthy
HAMAZING actively seeks artisan producers which helps preserve the traditional production methods and local economies. This means that the iberico pig, who for much of their lives run wild up and down hills in the endless Spanish oak forests gorging on acorns, wilds lavender, thyme and other herbs, live very healthy lives and are of premium quality. This is how all hams would have got to you before factory farming became the norm.
That's right - it's good for you!
Those fatty deposits taste sublime, but aren’t they bad for me? Simply put, no! Fat is essential in any balanced diet and as we’re told, and quite rightly, there is a huge difference between good and bad cholesterol. Iberico de bellota ham is high (precisely 59.13%) in monounsaturated oleic fat – the good cholesterol – which is the same fat that makes olive oil so much better for you than other oils. A typical 50g serving of iberico de bellota is around 125 calories.
It also has an exceedingly high protein content of 43g per 100g, is rich in vitamins B1, B6, B12 and folic acid which are good for the nervous system and cognitive development. That’s right – eating ham makes you smarter! Furthermore, it’s rich in the antioxidant vitamin E and in minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium and also selenium which helps us all anti-age. That’s right – eating ham helps you stay young!
But don’t just take our word for it; read it for yourself here!
Explain Spanish hams to me in plain English!
Ibérico de bellota is the pièce de résistance, the Rolls Royce, the Big Tony (or should it be José?) of Spanish hams. For all of you out there who don’t settle for anything but the very best, this is for you.
Ibérico is for everyone who wants some authentic taste of Spain at a more accessible price and by golly will you be astounded at the flavour.
Jamón serrano is the most common ham eaten every day all over Spain. In fact, Spaniards consume on average 5kg a year of the stuff (a whole ham per person!) and is a great entry point for the slightly thinner wallet.
See below for a more detailed explanation below for all you soon-to-be aficionados.
What's the right size of ham for me?
Want to learn more about HAMAZING ham?
Breeds of Ham:
There are broadly speaking 3 breeds of ham on the market:
1) Ibérico, a dark-skinned and dark-hoofed pig descending from wild Mediterranean boar and found in south and south-western Spain, which makes up 5% of the ham market;
2) Duroc, which is a rare dark-skinned pig sometimes mixed with Ibérico; and
3) European white pig, from the Landrace breed, simply called serrano (“mountain”) ham which with Duroc makes up the other 95%.
Pigs are generally slaughtered in the first couple of months of the year. From there they are go through the salazón process which gives them their distinctive colour and flavour: covered in salt and left for, as a rule of thumb, 1 day per kg of weight. After being cleaned of excess salt they are then hung to dry...
Ibérico legs are cured anywhere between 14 and 36 months; Duroc between 14 and 30. You are able to cure the legs for longer because of the high fat content, meaning they keep that succulent, moist texture. Try some authentic Jabugo flavour from Artesanos Jabugo.
For serrano hams: Bodega is between 9 and 12 months; Reserva between 12 and 15, and Gran Reserva > 15. See Trevélez for a cream-of-the-crop serrano leg.
Sizes of Leg:
The bigger, meatier, fattier hind legs or jamones typically weigh between 6.5-9kg and yield 4-5kg of meat. Their smaller brothers, the shoulder hams, or paletas, weigh 4-5kg and yield around 2.5kg of meat.
For their juciness, longer curing process and the fact that the meat keeps for 6 months we'd always recommend a full leg. However, shoulders of course come from the same pigs and thus the quality of the meat is the same. We've had many shoulders in our time and a shoulder is a great smaller entry point.
Types of Ibérico:
2) Ibérico, or minimum 75% iberico pig. The other 25% of ancestry generally comes from the Duroc. Given the limited amount of Iberian pigs (just 5% of all pigs bred in Spain), they’re interbred for economic reasons. A great examples of such a pig is the COVAP Recebo.
1) Bellota, or pure acorn fed. The semi-wild pigs are gorged on acorns, which make up >65% of their diet, as well as wild herbs and grasses for around 10 months prior to slaughter. This is what the connoisseurs rave about, and they have a very valid point! Take a look at the Arturo Sánchez Puro Bellota.
2) Recebo, or semi acorn fed. For the last 3 months of their happy lives wild foraging in La Dehesa they gorge on creamy acorns. You get great flavour but at a more economical price than ibérico bellota. Take a look at the Arturo Sánchez Recebo...
3) Cebo de Campo, or semi-wild pigs, feed on grain and grasses such as rosemary and thyme.
4) Cebo, or grain & grass fed. These pigs bring you all the great taste of an ibérico ham in its simplest form. Encinares is a top quality cebo producer.
D.O.P. – Denominación de Origen Protegida, or Protected Designation of Origin.
Like Champagne, not Cava, Roquefort or Rioja, there are some important protected jamón producing geographical regions that protect production quality such as feed and traditional curing processes. The ibérico D.O.P. regions include Huelva, Guijuelo, Los Pedroches and La Dehesa de Extremadura. Teruel has now reached the D.O.P. status, but for serrano hams. The serrano I.G.P (a subset of D.O.P.) region is Trevélez, also with oustanding quality. If you’d ask the question with such an obvious answer: Yes, at HAMAZING we have them!
In the map below the dark region is where Iberian pigs are found, the black pigs representing the D.O.P. regions. Th pink regions represent the highest quality serrano ham regions with Teruel in the north and Trevélez in the south. In the rest of Spain standard European pigs are farmed.
View Protected Geographical Status Ham Producing Regions, Spain in a larger map