Choosing a Spanish jamon

If you've never tasted genuine Spanish jamon before, you're in for a treat. It’s not like any other ham you’ve ever tried.

Served in wafer-thin slices at room temperature, it's a magical, almost mystical delicacy. The subtle, nutty flavor with buttery undertones combines with a velvety texture that melts on your tongue.

Best ham in the world

Our jamon comes from Spain. Nowhere else. Only Spain has the special black Iberian pigs, the particular climate, the vast oak forests and centuries of traditional expertise that go into making this unique gourmet delicacy.

What makes Spanish jamon so special is that it’s cured exactly as it has been for centuries. It’s not cooked, boiled, smoked or roasted. It’s just rubbed with sea salt, then hung up to dry, for between one and four years, depending on the size and characteristics of the ham.

Traditional free range

A healthy Iberian pig that grows up in a herd, foraging acorns and berries in the vast Spanish oak forests, is basically a happy animal. And you can really taste the difference.

OK, so intensive factory farming methods would mean cheaper meat. But even aside from the emotional factors, factory ham has no real flavor or authenticity.

In Spain, the traditional methods are still respected and strictly observed by artisan ham farmers. So you can enjoy truly fabulous tasting jamon and know that you're part of the tradition that preserves a healthy, respectful balance among people, nature and the food we eat.

It’s good for you!

Wait. Can something so divinely delicious really be good for you? Well, yes, absolutely! Thanks to the combination of the Iberian pig’s special DNA and its diet of acorns, the jamones designated as ‘bellota’ (acorn-fed) contain about 55% oleic acid in their fat. It’s the same substance that makes olive oil better for you than other oils. The technical term for this is a mono-unsaturated fatty acid.

Eaten in moderation, Spanish bellota jamon can help reduce the bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood and increase the good cholesterol (HDL). Plus: it’s rich in vitamins: B1, B6, B12, E and folic acid. It contains minerals including calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus.

You can include Spanish bellota jamon in a low calorie diet: a 2oz (50g) serving contains just 150 calories.

(sources: Spanish Academy of Gastronomy, L.Ortega, Fatty acid compositions of selected varieties of Spanish dry ham related to their nutritional implications (Fernandez, Ordonez, Cambero, Santos, Pin, de la Hoz; Departamento de Nutricion, Bromatologıa y Tecnologıa de los Alimentos, Facultad de Veterinaria, Universidad Complutense de Madrid), Wikipedia, jamoncom, about.com)

What do these Spanish names mean? Which is best?

There are three types of Spanish jamon.

The cheapest Spanish jamon is called ‘jamón serrano’. It comes from regular white pigs fed on grains and it’s cured for about a year. It’s got a warm, mild flavor.

Next up is 'jamón ibérico'. It comes from black Iberian pigs, who've been fed on grain. It has a richer flavor than Serrano jamon. The curing time varies from a year upwards depending on the size of the jamon.

The very best is 'jamón ibérico de bellota'. The black Iberian pigs roam free range, foraging acorns in the peace and quiet of the vast Spanish oak forests. It has an intense, complex flavor; gorgeous, marbled flesh and is the most highly prized ham in Spain, indeed the world.

Our advice: If you’re a gourmet and appreciate the finer things in life, you want a jamón ibérico de bellota. If you prefer milder flavours and a medium price, maybe try jamón ibérico. If you're on a budget, go for jamón serrano.

How many servings in a jamon?

We normally say about 50 to 100 grams per serving is the right amount. So a large jamon will give about 20-50 servings of wafer-thin luxury. 

Once you start carving your jamon, it will keep for about a month on its stand. Don’t refrigerate or wrap it. Watch the free DVD for more help, or ask joshandguy@hamlovers.ca for advice. There's also lots more information on the FAQ page.