Photo credit: Agacuj

Spanish ham, which one do you choose?

Hams with a white layer…

I often receive questions about the different types of Spanish ham. Many consumers and professionals in the Netherlands and other countries are often confused by the variety of Spanish ham types and the different names.

Spain produces a wide range of hams, from the famous Iberian hams to Serrano hams, but there are many more… I will start with a very simple clarification.

In Spain there are two major groups of hams:

* Iberian hams (Jamones Ibéricos)

* White or white layered hams (jamones Blanca o de capa blanca)

Today I want to talk about the second group: white hams or hams with a white layer.

These hams usually come from white pigs, from breeds such as Landrace, Duroc, Large White or Pietrain, all of which are immigrant (non-Hispanic, from other countries in the world). These animals are usually intensively bred on farms and fed with high-quality feed and grains.

Within the extended family of white hams, there are different types, qualities and options that can sometimes confuse consumers.

* Jamon serrano ETG: Serrano ham is a Spanish food with a TSG listing. There are a wide variety of qualities of serrano ham. The term “Serrano” is reserved for those hams that meet the specific requirements of the Especialidad Tradicional Garantizada, ETG (in Dutch it is called “Guaranteed Traditional Specialty” or GTS)

Traditionally, the ham curing process was carried out in mountainous areas of Spain. This association with the mountains (“sierra”) has led many people to call all white hams “serrano”. But that's not entirely correct! Did you know that the term "serrano" is protected by a European quality standard?

I would like to emphasize that an Especialidad Tradicional Garantizada (ETG) does not define the place of production of the product, but it does protect the traditional composition or production method. The minimum ripening time for Serrano ham will never be less than 7 months.

Logo ETG serrano

In the year 2000, more than 100 companies in Spain created the “Fundación del Jamón Serrano”. Many production companies have now joined the foundation. This foundation acts as the “representative body” of the Serrano Ham ETG and works to protect, improve and promote high-quality Serrano Ham, distinguishing it from other hams that are not produced according to the requirements of the ETG regulations and that do not guarantee the minimum quality required to meet this standard.
These companies are the only ones allowed to use the name “jamon serrano” on their labels, always accompanied by the yellow and blue European ETG seal.


What do these ham companies have to do to sell hams under the name Serrano ham? 

Firstly, they must be accredited by the National Accreditation Body in Spain and they must meet the specifications of the Serrano Ham TSG, (under Regulation (EC) 2082/82 and approved by Regulation (EC) 2419/99).

Within the categories of serrano ham we find:

• Bodega or Cava: with a minimum maturation of 9 months.

• Reserva or Añejo: with a minimum maturation of 12 months.

• Gran Reserva: with a minimum maturation of 15 months.

* Jamon Consorcio Serrano: The Spanish Serrano Ham Consortium, founded in 1990, represents the Spanish producers of Serrano Ham who are committed to preserving the tradition in its production. With their quality seal they guarantee the authenticity and quality of 100% Spanish Serrano Ham. Each piece has an average maturation of 12 months and is thoroughly controlled throughout the production process. The selection of the ham is done carefully, piece by piece.

Each piece therefore bears the European ETG seal of Serrano, as well as the distinctive and quality seal of the Serrano Consortium.

Logo ETG serrano         Consorcio jamon serrano logo

* Jamon de Teruel DOP: Teruel DOP hams and shoulders are produced in the province of Teruel, in the autonomous region of Aragon, under the European quality seal DOP and under the supervision of the Regulatory Council Denominación de Origen Protegida Jamón y paleta de Teruel. They are obtained from pots of pigs raised in the demarcated area, with crosses between the mother lines Landrace, Large White or their crosses, and the father lines Landrace or Duroc. The production process takes at least 60 weeks and takes place in the province of Teruel, with maturation at an altitude of at least 800 meters above sea level.

Teruel DOP - ham and shoulder, must meet the following requirements:

In addition to the commercial brand seal, the entire area around the hoof must have a numbered label (vitola) and a seal with the logo of the CRDO Jamón y Paleta de Teruel. The traceability of each ham is encoded on this tamper-evident label.

jamon cap teuel logo      jamon teruel cap vitola

NB! a DOP Teruel ham always retains the hoof, but if a ham does not meet the required quality parameters in a certain part of the process, the hoof is cut off.

In addition, all hams that meet Council standards are marked one by one with the 8-pointed star and the word Teruel engraved on the skin of each of them.

jamon teruel cap estrella

Recently it has been added to the label of the Jamón de Teruel if the ham is more than 22 months old and weighs 9 kilos, or more than 18 months old and weighs 8 kilos at the time of qualification. You may still be able to find hams with the traditional labels that guarantee a minimum of 14 months of aging and 7 kilos of weight.

Boneless or sliced hams must have a numbered spine label with the CRDO logo.

Jamón de Trevélez IGP : These hams are produced under the protection of the PGI or Protected Geographical Indication, this quality seal is given by the geographical environment in which the ham is produced, which gives the ham its own and distinctive characteristics. Trevélez is located at an altitude of 1,476 meters, at the foot of the Mulhacén. This BGA includes several municipalities in the region that are located at a minimum altitude of 1,200 meters. These municipalities are: Trevélez, Bérchules, Busquistar, Pórtugos, La Tahá, Bubión, Juviles and Capileira, all in the province of Granada.

igp trevelez logo

All hams found to be suitable are marked with an alphanumeric inscription and this identification is recorded by the Consejo Regulador ( Regulatory Council)

Each ham found to be suitable is also identified with a guarantee seal, which can be blue, red or black, and which is checked by the Consejo Regulador.

The final qualification of the hams is carried out after a final check and verification, during which the control technicians check that each ham meets all the established requirements, and each piece must be accompanied by the alphanumeric identification and the color seal.

This unique seal, together with the alphanumeric identification, provides proof of the authenticity of the product. The final label of the protected product must include the PGI logo and at least 50 % of the label, together with the registered trademark and the logo of the certification company, Fundación Qualytech Alimentación.

The PGI sets a minimum ripening period for each category.

Category 1 Blue seal: Minimum maturation period of 14 months.

jamon igp Trevelez azul

Category 2 red seal: Minimum maturation period of 17 months.

Jamon igp-trevelez-rojo

Category 3 black seal: minimum maturation period of 20 months.

Jamon igp trevelez negro

* Jamon de Serón IGP: The PGI “Serón Ham” is a geographically protected product. with a minimum maturation of 12 months and from white pig breed.

The PGI “Jamón de Serón” refers to cured hams produced exclusively in the municipality of Serón, province of Almería, through a process that includes a period of drying and natural maturation lasting at least 12 months. Seron ham is red in color and shiny when cut, with a slightly sweet, slightly salty taste and an aroma that can vary from medium to intense.

IGP jamon de seron logo

* Jamon curado: Hams with this designation have a maturation period of less than 7 months and have no indication of quality or ETG

Jamon curado

NB!! All Spanish hams are called “curados” (cured hams), they are so called because each piece of ham must undergo a brine process after salting to obtain a suitable piece for consumption with a specific aroma and taste.

And so as not to confuse us, if the word “Jamon curado” appears on the label or packaging when purchased, this would correspond to hams of inferior quality and without a quality seal.

I hope this post has provided some clarity on the types of white hams and that you have an easier time choosing one.



Source list:

Ministerio de Agricultura, Pesca y Alimentación

CRDOP Jamón de Teruel, Consorcio del Jamón Serrano

Jamon Lovers

Jamón de Trevélez IGP