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The Spanish ham plays a central role in the history, culture and gastronomy of Spain. Pigs and Spanish ham have been part of the heritage for centuries.
In particular, the Iberian Peninsula, which is now Spain and Portugal, was the center of Spanish ham production.
Throughout history, the pig and the ham have had different meanings. In the time of the Celts, the pig was worshiped and took an important place in all meals. In contrast, during the time of the Romans, the ham was seen as a luxury product that could only be enjoyed by the nobility.
We have most of the references and documents about the pig and ham from the Roman era. An important author was Columella (first century AD) and his oeuvre “twelve books on agriculture”. This book series discusses in detail the care of the pigs and the ripening process of the hams.
Over the years, Spanish pork and ham have played an important role. For example, during Columbus's voyage to America, hams and other meats were the only source of protein for the Marines. On his second trip to America he also introduces the pig here.
But the production and consumption of pork also has dark periods. African swine fever (PPA), a viral disease, was first discovered in Kenya in 1910. The PPA then also visited Spain via Portugal (1957) in 1960.
The disease was persistently present throughout the pig population of Spain and Portugal. This led to serious economic damage, both from sick pigs and from the ban on exporting pigs or derived products.
After 35 years of fighting African swine fever, the Standing Veterinary Committee of the European Union declared Spain “free” from African swine fever in November 1995 (Brussels).
Finally, Spain was free of the “swine fever stigma” and the doors of Europe to pigs and their products were once again opened.
In recent decades, the consumption and production of Spanish ham has increased and much attention has been paid to the quality of the ham through the use of traditional methods.
The Spanish ham It now also has international allure and is seen as a delicacy and has an important place in the world of gastronomy.
When we talk about Spanish ham we are not talking about one type. The most famous varieties among the public are the Ibérico ham - “Jamon Ibérico” and serrano ham - “Jamón Serrano”. These hams come from different pig breeds, successively the Ibérico pig and the white pig breed (Large White, Duroc, and Piétran).