Jamon Serrano is the delectable cured Spanish ham that any visitor to
Spain is sure to have encountered at one time or another. In many bars
you will see these serrano hams hanging from the ceiling and also
displayed prominently on a special stand known as a jamonera in the perfect position for cutting. This in
itself is something of an art as jamon serrano is never cut with a
machine but always with a knife and the exact thickness is of great importance.
“Serrano” means “from the mountains”. The ham has this name because
its origins lie in the mountains and in the time before refrigerators
the slow process of air curing was one of the best ways to preserve your meat.
To make a serrano jam you take a nice fat pig’s leg, rub it with salt
and hang it in a cool, airey place. Traditionally the making of jamon serrano
sometimes also known as jamon iberico, would start in the autumn after
the slaughtering of the pigs once the weather had cooled down. They are then
hung out to dry in a place where there is minimal water but where the
wind can get at them. The curing process is finished by the summer
by which time the ham will have lost about a third of it’s weight. The longer
the ham is cured the better the flavour and in fact it continues curing
until it’s finally eaten.
A pata Negra is the ham most correctly termed jamon iberico as these Spanish
hams come from the Iberian pig, a black pig descended from the wild boar.
They were once the predominant race in Spain but are not so common today,
being mainly found in Andalucia, and their hams are highly prized.
The pigs that produce Jamon Serrano are pasture fed on acorns and it is this
natural rearing which is so important in giving the meat it’s delectable
and unique flavour. In today’s health conscious world they are to be
valued as a meat low in saturated fats and cholesterol and as such are
an important part of the healthy Mediterranean Diet. [http://www.costadelsol-vacationrentals.com/mediterranean-diet.html] Serrano ham
contains a high level of oleic acid, a mono-unsaturated fat which
can have the effect of lowering cholesterol levels and has also
recently been proved to have anti cancer properties. This is the oil
found in olive oil. which has also been receiving very good
reports in the health press in recent years.
So next time you are in Spain be sure to try some Jamon Serrano,
I am sure there isn’t a bar in the land which does not serve this wonderful ham.
Try asking for a catalan which is a bocadillo, or large roll,served with
jamon serrano, cheese and olive oil.
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