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Here's some information about the Spanish ham, types, origins and curiosities.
If you have any further question, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will try to resolve your doubts or lack of information asap.
Origin: Race of pigs from the Iberian Peninsula based on pure registered Iberian pigs crossed with other Iberian males.
Appearance: Pointed and narrow snout animal with short black hair. Despite the volume of body mass, it has a stylized body and thin long paw.
The hoof: Usually black. This is the reason why it is known as "Pata Negra", which means black paw.
Colour, flavour and aroma:The colour of iberico ham goes from pink to purplish red. It has a slightly fibrous texture and fat infiltrations. The combination of the delicate flavour and intense aroma of this delicious food, makes it an attractive, indispensable product in every good gourmet table.
The fat: The iberian pigs genetics provides them with a natural fat infiltration in their muscle tissue. This provides the oily texture and intense flavour of the Iberian ham. This fat is bright, smooth and extremely soft to the touch.
The official classification of Iberian ham depends on their nutrition and the amount of acorns consumed. There are 4 types of Iberian ham or shoulder ham:
The good Iberian ham is the result of the perfect combination of a good raising process of a pure-bred Iberian pig, natural food and traditional production process, especially the drying process.
Origin: There are written references about the Serrano ham in Hispania, late 2nd century BC, by the Romans.
Appearance: Also called white pig, because is usually white skin and clear hoof.
The hoof: Usually clear brown.
Colour, aroma and texture: The colour varies from pink to purple tones: mild flavour, slightly salty and pleasant aroma. It is also homogeneous and slightly fibrous texture. Compared to the Iberian, aroma, flavour and texture are slightly softer.
The fat: It's bright, yellowish white in colour, aromatic and pleasant taste.
The official classification of the Serrano ham depends on the dry curing and maturation. There are 3 types of Serrano ham :
The Dehesa is the area of pastures and oak forest where Iberian pigs are raised traditionally in Extremadura, Spain.
Extremadura is a region of great ecological value and mostly uninhabited. Its Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and long mild winters makes it ideal for raising the Iberian pig.
In Extremadura there are about a million hectares of pastures and another million hectares of forest. This combination forms an ecological paradise.
Some oak acorns are sweeter than others, so the Iberian pigs look for them like children look for candies. They can eat about 7 kg per day.
The search for acorns provides the Iberian pigs two very important things. First, the infiltration of the fat in the muscular tissue, due to exercise derived from the search of acorns. Secondly, the coming benefits of a healthy and an abundant natural diet.
The large area devoted to each animal provides a great nutrition and an optimal development of the Iberian pig. So we can get the best Iberian ham.
To get the most out of the oak trees, there is the “vareado” (a person hitting the tree with a long stick) used to bring down the acorns so that the pigs can enjoy them freshly when fallen from the tree.
The ham production process is slow and laborious. It can last between 15 months and 3 years. The process consists of 5 stages:
In this stage there are extreme quality controls to ensure that the meat arrives in proper sanitary conditions, rejecting any non-compliant product. The analysis is taken place to define the type of Iberian ham that it’s going to become after the whole process.
Salting is one of the oldest forms of preserving meat in natural conditions, without artificial preservatives. Today this natural preserving form is still used to get the best Spanish ham.
Hams are buried in salt between layers of salt.
In this stage the hams are left in cold storage approximately 90 days. Certain conditions of temperature and humidity are need so that the salt is equally distributed through all pieces, in order to promote dehydration and conservation.
The temperature and the humidity are gradually raised and later on they are reduced slowly.
When temperature and humidity conditions inside the resting chambers are consistent with those in the natural drying ones, the hams are moved to the maturation stage.
In this stage hams are settle in natural cellars (bodegas) where they are dried in the traditional way.
Hams rest hanging for months (depending of the type) to acquire the texture, the maturation, the taste and aroma appropriate for the curing process. This process distributes the fat between the muscle fibbers which allows it to retain its best aroma.
Hams are hung in natural cellars for a period of time which depend on the type of piece you want to obtain. During this period they will lose between 30% and 40% of their initial weight.
The Ham Master (Maestro Jamonero) role is extremely important in this process because he controls the time of the different stages, depending on the characteristics of each group of hams.
The different parts of the ham provide different degrees of curation and different types of slices.
Being the ham the back leg and the shoulder ham the front leg of the pig, we present a list of differences between them.
Specific features of the ham, the back leg:
Specific features of the shoulder ham, the front leg:
The best secret to cut either a shoulder ham or a ham, is practice. So the first cuts are not the best but over time you will improve the technique.
We want to propose you some general ideas and practical advice to get started in the art of cutting ham. Some suggestions:
There are several options to cut a ham. We recommend you to start cutting it from the drier part, in order to avoid it’s left to the end when it would be too dry.
Where do I place the ham?
How do I start to cut?
Let’s cut those delicious slices of ham
Now your ham is finish, all left is the bone. You can cut it with a saw into pieces and used them for a good, delicious soup. Let it boil in the soup for 20 minutes and you’ll get an exquisite dish. The rest of the pieces of the bone can be keep in the freezer for later use.
We hope that these guidelines will be practical to cut your ham and enjoy the task and the product.
Placing the shoulder ham
Peeling the shoulder ham
Let’s cut some slices
Tips for better preservation of your whole Spanish ham:
Tips for better preservation of your boneless ham:
To select the ham or a shoulder ham in its optimum curing point is a not an easy task. You need an specialist with experience on this field. When we receive your order of a ham, we select your ham within its ideal curing point with the weight you demand. This important process is carried out using all our senses:
Often when you buy a ham or shoulder ham you notice some white specks that appear when you cut it. Maybe you thought that there is something wrong with the ham...Nothing further from the truth.
These white specks on our ham are the result of crystallization of an amino acid called tyrosine. It is the result of natural curing process, being a sign of quality and excellence of the product.
The term “Pata Negra” refers to the Spanish Iberian breed. The reason is that the black hoof most Iberian pigs have, “pata negra” means black paw. Nowadays the label "pata negra" is also used as a distinction of gourmet products.
However, not all Iberian hams have black hoof and not all the hams which have black hoof are Iberian hams.
The different branches of the Iberian breed pigs may have hoofs not always black. We can find red Iberian pigs or stained Iberian pigs which can have clear or light hoof.
Iberian ham has countless health benefits substantiated by studies from prestigious universities.
Acorns fed pigs have a higher proportion of unsaturated fats that lower cholesterol and counteract the effects of cardiovascular disease, improving the circulatory system.
The Iberian pig breeding areas are placed in the south and south west of Spain.
Extremadura is the largest producer of ham and place where the "Dehesa" takes its name. The "Dehesa" is the fields of oak trees where the iberian pigs live and eat the acorns.
The fields where the iberian pigs a raised are located in the provinces of Salamanca, Toledo and Zamora near the mountains of Gredos and Béjar. The curing ham process is perform in the southwest of Salamanca where the altitude of the area contributes to the drying process.
For many years it was identified the term Jabugo ham with Iberico ham. This fact makes that many people when asking for iberian ham ask for Jabugo ham.
The production area of Iberian ham Pedroches is located in the province of Cordoba and meets the municipalities of Adamuz, Hornachuelos, Guest Obejo, Montoro, Villaharta and Villaviciosa de Córdoba.
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Specialists in Spanish ham for over 30 years.
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How to slice a ham or a shoulder. Seleccion of a ham.
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Information about Spanish ham. Types of ham.
Typical recipes from the Spanish cuisine. 100% mediterranean.
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