Ham in Extremadura is a serious matter and a cause of great pride among locals. Before travelling there, make sure you do your homework and get it right. I would be very disappointed to hear your favourite food from Extremadura is jamón serrano…
Imagine serrano as a Ford Fiesta and ibérico as a Ferrari. There is nothing wrong with the Fiesta but, if you were to choose and could afford it, you would get a Ferrari. And after driving the Ferrari you would not go back to your old Fiesta unless there was nothing else to drive in the world.
You got it — it’s basically a question of quality and price.
I know who is going to win this ham fight before it even starts, but I want to show you why. So I listed below the key features of each type of ham so you can judge for yourself and decide what to order at the restaurant when you visit Extremadura…
SERRANO VS IBÉRICO
|• It comes from white pigs||• It comes from black Iberian pigs|
|• White pigs are compound-fed||• Black pigs are either acorn, pasture and compound-fed (ibérico de recebo) or free-range acorn-fed (ibérico de bellota)|
|• Dry curing process: hams are hung to dry for less than 15 months||• Dry curing process: hams are hung to dry for about 3 years|
|• Price: The average price of serrano ham is €12-€15/kg||• Price: the average price of ibérico de bellota ham is €50-€70/kg|
|• Colour: light red, almost pink||• Colour: deep, ruby red|
|• Texture: rougher||• Texture: softer|
|• Aspect: leaner||• Aspect: streaked with marbling fat|
Now that you know the differences between the two types of ham, you should be thrilled to know that Extremadura is home to the best ham in the world.
Why is that?
As mentioned above, black Iberian pigs are fed on either acorn, pasture and compound (producing ibérico de recebo) or acorn only (producing the supreme ibérico de bellota). The Extremadura dehesa, a pastureland featuring holm oaks that covers over a third of the region’s extension, is the ideal habitat for the best Iberian black pigs to roam freely and stuff themselves with acorns during the montanera period (from October to February). Pigs must reach 160 kg of weight, as specified by the Denomination of Origin Regulatory Board, in order to gain the title jamón ibérico de bellota.
Acorns give the ham a distinctive rich flavour and texture and they also produce acorn liqueur, another Extremadura flagship product. But that is a topic I will cover in a future blog post.
Extremadura, is it not hamazing?