Spain’s culinary arts are world famous, and amongst the most popular are the country’s delectable cured hams, chiefly jamón serrano or “mountain ham,” and jamón ibérico or “Iberian ham.” These days the Serrano variety is produced and enjoyed in every region of Spain, but traditionally the curing of these prized hams was the province of mountainous regions where the freshly butchered legs were covered with sea salt, then washed after a few days of curing before the meat was hung in well ventilated curing sheds to dry in the ever changing mountain air for at least a year. This process required no refrigeration or additives and produced delicious hams that were at once salty and a tiny bit sweet, aspects that are especially heightened when the meat is cut thinner than paper and enjoyed with a robust glass of wine, a bit of cheese and a piece of crusty bread.
The Consorcio del Jamón Serrano Español was established in 1990 in order to establish strict guidelines and quality controls that producers have to adhere to in order to protect the integrity and quality of one of Spain’s most respected products. Each ham undergoes stringent inspection by the consortium and only those that pass muster are branded with the treasured – and cleverly ham-shaped – “S” and receive a numbered control label to signify to the world that it is a true Serrano.
Whatever way ham lovers find it, whether it be whole with the hoof, hanging in the delicatessen or specialty shop, pre-sliced and packaged for ready enjoyment or in a sandwich, jamón serrano is a truly unique delicacy that should be savored – with a capital “S”.