Buying a Ham

If you've never tasted genuine Spanish ham 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 ham 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 ham 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 ham 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 hams 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 ham 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 ham in a low calorie diet: a 50 gram 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 ham.

The basic Spanish ham is called ‘jamón serrano’. It comes from 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 Iberian pigs, who've been fed on grain. It has a richer flavor than Serrano ham. The curing time varies from a year upwards depending on the size of the ham.

The very best is 'jamón ibérico de bellota'. The 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.

Tip: If you are a gourmet and like strong flavours, get a bellota ham. If you want to taste it before committing, try some sliced bellota ham first. If you prefer milder flavours, try an ibérico. If you're on a budget, get a serrano.

Tip: Ham is like fine wine or cheese- the longer it is cured, the better it tastes (and the more it costs, usually). All our hams list their curing times.

Another tip: If you don't have a ham holder, choose a ham that comes with one or pick one up separately. Cutting a ham without one is no fun.

Starting in 2014, there is a new labeliing scheme (you will see this gradually introduced in our products, over the next couple of years, because hams take 1-4 years to cure):

BLACK LABEL - Jamon 100% Iberico de Bellota

The best there is, pure-bred Iberian pig which has been fed only on acorns during the montanero period (October to February). It is free-range, being allowed to roam around the dehesa.

RED LABEL Jamon Iberico de Bellota

The animal is part-Iberian (the percentage of Iberian breed must be specified). Again, the pig has been allowed to roam free, eating acorns.

GREEN LABEL - Jamon Iberico de Cebo de Campo

This pig is at least 50% Iberian, and has been allowed to roam freely, eating both natural grazing and fodder.

WHITE LABELJamon Iberico de Cebo

This pig is at least 50% Iberian, and has been kept enclosed in a pen and given fodder.

How many servings in a ham?

We normally say about 50 to 100 grams per serving is the right amount.

So a large ham will give about 20-50 servings of wafer-thin luxury. A small ham would be about 10-20 servings.

Once you start carving your whole ham, 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.com for advice. There's also lots more information on the FAQ page.