Ibérico ham

Here at Brindisa you’ll find a superior selection of Ibérico ham including acorn-fed bellota and cereal-fattened cebo de campo hams. Shop all our finest Ibérian whole ham legs and sliced varieties online.

Ibérico ham

Here at Brindisa you’ll find a superior selection of Ibérico ham including acorn-fed bellota and cereal-fattened cebo de campo hams. Shop all our finest Ibérian whole ham legs and sliced varieties online.

What is Ibérico Ham?

Ibérico ham, also known as Jamon Ibérico, is a cured ham that originates from the Iberian Peninsula in Spain. It is made from the meat of Ibérico pigs, a breed that is native to the region. These pigs are known for their unique genetics, diet, and lifestyle, which contribute to the exceptional flavour and texture of the ham.

The production of Ibérico ham is a meticulous and time-consuming process that involves salting, drying, and ageing the meat. The result is a delicacy that is often considered one of the finest hams in the world. It is characterised by its intense flavour, marbled appearance, and melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Origins of Ibérico

Produced from black Iberian pigs, Ibérico ham is the most highly regarded type of Spanish ham. Deeply rooted in Spanish culture, this ham is strictly regulated by Protected Designations of Origin (PDO). According to Spain's PDO rules and current regulations on ham, Jamón Ibérico must be made from pure breed, or cross-bred pigs - as long as they are at least 50% Ibérian in their ancestry. There are three grades of Ibérico ham, categories primarily defined by the diet of the pigs and how long the meat has been cured.

What Makes Ibérico Ham Different from Other Types of Ham?

Ibérico ham stands out from other types of ham due to several factors. Firstly, the breed of pig used in its production, the Ibérico pig, is unique to the Iberian Peninsula. These pigs have a distinct genetic makeup that contributes to the flavour and quality of the meat.

Secondly, Ibérico pigs are raised in a specific way that allows them to develop their signature flavour. They are free-range, roaming freely in the oak forests of Spain, where they feast on a diet of acorns, grasses, and herbs. This diet gives their meat a rich, nutty flavour and a unique marbling that sets it apart from other hams.

Lastly, the curing process for Ibérico ham is different from other hams. It involves a longer ageing period, typically ranging from 12 to 48 months, which allows the flavours to develop and intensify. This extended curing time contributes to the depth of flavour and tenderness of the ham.

How is Ibérico Ham Made?

The production of Ibérico ham is a precise and time-honoured process that involves several stages. First, the hind legs of the Ibérico pig are trimmed and cleaned. They are then salted and left to cure for a period of time, typically ranging from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the desired flavour profile.

After the salting process, the hams are washed and dried before being hung in a curing room. Here, they undergo a slow and gradual ageing process, with the temperature and humidity carefully controlled to ensure optimal conditions for the ham to develop its flavours.

During the ageing process, the hams are regularly inspected and monitored to ensure quality and taste. The length of the curing period can vary depending on the desired flavour and texture of the ham, with longer curing times resulting in a more intense and complex flavour.

What is the Difference Between Jamon Ibérico and Jamon Ibérico de Bellota?

Jamon Ibérico and Jamon Ibérico de Bellota both refer to Ibérico ham, but there is a key difference between the two. Jamon Ibérico de Bellota is considered the highest quality Ibérico ham and is made from pigs that have been raised on a diet of acorns (bellota in Spanish) during the Montanera season, which typically lasts from October to February.

The acorn-rich diet gives the meat a distinct nutty flavour and contributes to the marbling that is characteristic of Jamon Ibérico de Bellota. These pigs have more freedom to roam and forage in the oak forests, resulting in a unique flavour profile that is highly sought after by ham connoisseurs.

Jamon Ibérico, on the other hand, is made from pigs that have been raised on a diet that includes acorns but also includes other feed sources. While still of excellent quality, Jamon Ibérico does not have the same intensity of flavour and marbling as Jamon Ibérico de Bellota.

What are the Different Grades of Ibérico Ham?

Ibérico ham is often classified into different grades based on the pigs' diet, breed purity, and the curing process. The three main grades are:

  1. Jamón ibérico de bellota - From 100% pure Ibérico pigs fed on a diet of acorns during the Montanera. These hams are aged for at least three years before being released and often labelled 'reserva' and 'gran reserva' to denote their age. 
  2. Jamón ibérico cebo de campo - Free range, but fed only on a diet of cereals. 
  3. Jamón ibérico de cebo - Commercially reared pigs fed on a diet of cereals.

When buying a whole Ibérian ham leg, look out for the coloured labels that indicate if the pigs are 100% Ibérian or less. These are categorised as follows:

  • Black - 100% Ibérian acorn-fed - “pata negra”
  • Red - at least 50% Ibérian acorn-fed
  • Green - at least 50% Ibérian cebo de campo
  • White - at least 50% Ibérian cebo

How is Ibérico Ham Traditionally Served and Enjoyed?

Ibérico ham is traditionally served in thin slices to showcase its melt-in-your-mouth texture and complex flavours. The best way to enjoy Ibérico ham is at room temperature, as this allows the aromas and flavours to fully develop.

To serve Ibérico ham, use a sharp knife to cut thin slices, ensuring that you cut against the grain to maximise tenderness. Arrange the slices on a platter or a wooden board, allowing guests to help themselves.

Ibérico ham pairs beautifully with other Spanish delicacies such as Manchego cheese and olives. It can also be enjoyed on its own or as part of tapas dishes, sandwiches, or salads. The possibilities are endless!