Salt in the Spanish ham… necessary or unnecessary?

Spanish ham during the pekellen

We are currently very concerned about the effects of our diet on our health and therefore many people are concerned about excessive consumption of salt.

Spanish Ham is a product that contains salt. We already know that.. But why do they do so in Spain?

Salt has been used as a food preservative since ancient times, including Spanish ham. The Romans, who paid a lot of attention to the quality of their products, the first documents on salting the “Legs” of pigs. More than 20 centuries later and is still done so!

I am often asked:

How, needs the Spanish ham salt? Could it be without salt?”

Actually, it can't do without salt! Let's see why:

  • Firstly, because it is necessary for the production of ham to remove all the water in the meat, salt has the capacity to extract water from the inside of the meat and in turn penetrate into the lean part by diffusion (the so-called osmotic effect).

Why is that important? By removing the water and moisture from the ham, we prevent the proliferation of disruptive and pathogenic microorganisms that would be harmful to consumption.

  • During the production process, a number of processes occur, the so-called proteolytic phenomena (breakdown of proteins) partly responsible for the emergence of the characteristic aroma, the taste and texture of the ham.

Currently, many companies that produce ham are striving to use as little salt as possible; to produce ham that tastes like ham and not salt.

To do this, they shorten the brine time (the process of salting the ham) and they give the ham more time to heal (longer ripening time).

Usually the following formula is used during the brine time: 1 day in salt x kilo weight. Some companies do 1 day x kilo – 1, Other 1 day x kilo – 3.

So 1 fresh ham from 10 kilo = 10 days pekellen in salt, some companies do 9 days and other 7 days.

The surface salt is then removed by brushing the ham with water. The salt is now penetrated into the ham.

From a sensory and nutritional point of view, the salinity must not be too high and not too low from a microbiological point of view, balance is therefore important.

The use of salt in the preparation of Spanish ham is therefore essential, Necessary, useful and sensible.

So to answer the first question, The Spanish ham can't do without salt, with a little less.

The challenge is to use salt on a responsible, balanced way, and reaching a ham that is not too salted, with proper maturation, exceptional taste and a good aroma, a miracle.

I call it a gastronomic miracle!


  • Jamón curado aspectos científicos y tecnológicos. Don José Bello Gutiérrez
  • Jamón Ibérico y Serrano. Fundamentos de la elaboración y de la calidad: Don Jesús Ventanas Barroso

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