The types and qualities of Spanish hams are determined by the breed of the pig, how and where it was raised, and how it was processed. Simple factors that make all the difference in the world.
Certain combinations of these factors are protected and warranted through certification by Denominación de Origin or the Consorcio del Jamón Serrano Español. These ensure that the hams that bear their seal deliver the quality and flavors synonymous with the name.
In their infancy, all pigs are raised on a diet that includes cereal grains and mother's milk. While white pigs usually continue to eat only cereal feeds after weaning, Ibérico pigs are raised on a variety of diets. Diet is the second most important factor influencing the quality of the ham, and is one of the factors evaluated in determining Ibérico ham grades.
Bellota grade Ibérico ham (Jamón Ibérico de Bellota)
Hams are from Ibérico pigs, which have spent the last three to four months of their lives feasting on rich, sweet acorns that have dropped from the ground from holm and cork trees in the meadows of a region called the dehesa. This period of grazing on the open range is called the montanera, and the pigs add about half their weight during this period.
The coveted hams they produce are unique in the world: beautiful nutty ham slices which glisten when they are served because 60% of their marbled fat contains healthy mono triglycerides (like olive oil) that melt at room temperature. Because of its quality, many connoisseurs have referred to Jamón Ibérico Bellota as the "Beluga caviar of hams."
Recebo grade Ibérico ham
These are hams from Ibérico pigs who have have enjoyed a shorter free range acorn grazing period or added less than 50% to their weight during the montanera, and are subsequently fattened and brought to market weight with cereal feed.
Cebo grade Ibérico ham
These are hams from Ibérico pigs who were raised on a diet of cereal feeds.
Ibérico ham These are hams from Ibérico pigs, usually cross-bred with white pigs, who were raised on farms and fed cereal feeds, without a period of free range grazing.
Teruel ham, Trevélez ham, Gran Serrano ham
These hams are from white or Duroc pigs, who were raised on farms and fed cereal feed, and then cured for more than one year at high altitudes in dry climates such as Teruel and Sierra Nevada.
Oro (gold) Serrano ham, Plata (silver) Serrano ham
Hams from white pigs, who were raised on farms and fed cereal feed, then cured for over 12 months anywhere in Spain.
Hams from white pigs, who were raised on farms (usually outside of Spain) and fed cereal feed raised, and then processed in Spain, and cured for less than 8 months.
Hams from Spain are commonly offered in the following cuts, whether made from Ibérico pigs or others. The Ibérico versions of each of these cuts only became available in the U.S. in 2007.
Bone-in and Boneless Whole Hams (back legs)
Bone-in and Boneless Paletas (shoulders)
Lomos (cured pork loins)
Chorizos and Salchichónes (sausages)