Spanish Ham is not "ham" as an American would normally understand the word. And it is definitely not like Italian prosciutto. So, the English language is kind of limited when it comes to pork products and the only word we have to describe this Spanish delicacy just doesn't really explain it or do it justice.
So before continuing, let’s take a look at the two types of products that Spaniards consider to be "jamón" (which again, is simply translated as "ham")
- Jamón Serrano: Is a dry-cured Spanish ham leg served raw in thin slices. Serrano hams are made from a white breed of pig and are not to be confused with the much more expensive and entirely different jamón iberico.
- Jamón Ibérico: Is a much more expensive version of Spanish ham, made from Iberian black pigs, fed special diets to produce a high quality high sought after Spanish cured ham leg.
Due to rigorous US laws, it has been quite a challenge for Spaniards to get their world famous product into the American market. In 2006, the first Spanish Ham exporter, Fermín, finally achieved this endeavor. Fermín is located in La Alberca in the province of Salamanca and prides itself on having penetrated the US market.
In fact, according to Cristina García, an employee of Fermín based in the USA and the only official Spanish ham cutter in the country, Americans have a lot to learn about this Spanish food.
THINGS AMERICANS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT IBERIAN HAM
- Yes, Spanish ham should be cut by an official "ham cutter". Any Spaniard can tell you that. In fact, here in Spain they have special classes and licenses to get the job. No kidding, the way it is cut IS important.
- Spanish ham is cut in thin slices and arranged on a plate from which various people share. No, you do not use a fork. You use your fingers. Yes, Spanish ham is a finger. No, you do not put any sauces on it. This is like blasphemy and there is no better way to upset a Spaniard. This is kind of like smothering a freshly roasted turkey on Thanksgiving with ketchup, or even worse, an expensive cut of T-bone steak. Just don't but sauce on it. Blasphemy, BLASPHEMY!
- Yes, it is cured meaning it is pretty much raw. I mean, you know what "cured" means, right? Yes, it is cut directly off of what appears to be a pig leg. Yes, it is a pig leg. Yes, this is hard for Americans to get used to at first. And yes, if you come to Spain you will see these pig legs dangling from ceilings, kitchents, and on most bar counters.
- Spanish ham is usually cut to include a small amount of fat in each slice. YES you should eat this. No, it won't make you fat. Yes, Spanish ham is actually quite healthy for you! According to Cristina García, most Americans request the fat to be removed. Again: BLASPHEMY! :)
- No, it is not Spanish prosciutto, and no, Spanish ham has nothing to do with Italian ham. Let's try not to confuse things :)
For those of you who doubt the exquisiteness of this Spanish food, let me just tell you that Fermín Iberian ham was included in this year’s menu for the Oscars. To give you an idea of how exclusive it is in the US, every portion served at the Oscars cost $600!!!!!
So now you can find Spanish ham in the USA, albeit it is still hard to find and costly. You can always come to Spain to study Spanish to more easily access the Spanish delicacy. Remember the tips I gave you as you wouldn't want to offend people!