The reputation of Serrano ham is established internationally. The vast majority of Serrano ham's deserved reputation for quality is down to the careful selection of the best pigs and the traditional craft techniques used in the production of Serrano ham.
That's why we have the Denomination of Origin of Serrano ham: Serrano ham was an obvious candidate for inclusion in the Protected Denomination of Origin (DOP) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) schemes, designed to ensure that the whole process of production and processing follows the rules established by the European Union and the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture.
It's also intended to ensure that consumers are protected from misleading advertising and dishonest information.
True, the first place on the Spanish ham podium goes to Iberico ham, but that doesn't mean Serrano ham should be left out in the cold (figuratively speaking, of course!).
Serrano ham is produced and processed using methods and materials that are just as rigorously controlled as those used for Iberico ham. For example, white pig breeds are selected just as carefully as the black Iberico pigs, though more breeds are allowed: Serrano ham may be made from Duroc, Large White or Landrace, which can be mixed with Iberico pigs but no other breeds.
There is also strict control over the types of diets the pigs must be fed. Modern factory farms feed their animals all kinds of things: Serrano ham comes from pigs fed grains and legumes.
The Denomination of Origin of Serrano ham also includes all factors related to the production process. Weights, times and foods must all be taken into account. The preparation techniques involved are also carefuly monitored.The DOP seal on a Serrano ham is a seal of success as well as a guarantor of quality, proving that traditional crafts skills are still producing a superior product.
For Serrano ham, unlike Iberico ham, there is a second type of certification available. Known as IGP, for Protected Geographical Indication, this works just like DOP except that pigs can have been raised in a wider range of places and still qualify.
Let's find out what DOP and IGP mean for Spanish Serrano ham:
- IGP Trévelez Ham: Also known as the hams of the High Alpujarra, because they originate in elevations above 1, 200m, these Spanish hams are made in the province of Granada, specifically in Trévelez, Bubión, Capileira, La Taha Bérchules, Pórtugos or Juviles Busquistar. Hams can only qualify for this IGP if the pigs come from these areas and are of the breeds listed above.
Curing times for these Spanish hams range from a minimum of 15 months for younger hams right up to 24 months for the largest. The hams have a rounded shape and the meat is characterized by an intense red coloration and white-yellow fat. Pieces should weigh between 7 and 9kg, and many experts agree that this is typically the sweetest Spanish ham on the market, owing to a low average salt content.
- PGI ham Seron: Serón ham is produced in the town of Seron, Almería, although pigs can be raised elsewhere. In this case the Landrace , Belgian White , Duroc , Pietrain , Chato Murciano and Large White breeds are accepted. These hams are unique in that once completed the curation time, they are smeared in lard to facilitate preservation.
This is the hallmark that differentiates them from other hams. Regarding the appearance, they also have a rounded shape and weigh at least 7 or 8 kg depending on the category. The salt content is low (5%) and when you cut their meat, it has a bright reddish color that mixes with translucent fat. It has a very particular and recognizable aroma and a very sweet taste.
- DOP Teruel Ham: Duroc, Landrace and Large White pigs supply the meat for these famous Spanish hams. Teruel ham was the first Denomination of Origin of Serrano Ham granted in Spain, and is therefore one of the more treasured traditional foods. It covers producers located in the province of Teruel, which is characterized by the cool, dry climate of a mountain area.
All pigs must be at least 8 months old at slaughter and weigh at least 110-130kg, and hams usually weigh between 8 and 9kg. The piece is easily recognized by its elongated shape with a rounded end. Like other Serrano hams, these have a relatively low salt content, meaning the flavor offers sweet nuances. The meat of a good Teruel ham should be a strong red, with bright fat. If you're not sure, look for the logo with the word Teruel and the shield.