Spaniards like their Ham and for good reasons. Whether it is Serrano or the finer and more expensive Iberico, Spanish hams are delicious.
Ham is ubiquitous in Spain. Featured on every menu in bars and restaurants, you will see them hanging from ceilings everywhere as in this small tapas bar in Nerja.
It is a lengthy process to make Spanish ham but you only need two ingredients to cure ham; salt and time.
Most hams are cured for about 90 days but a leg of fine jamón ibérico cures for between 2 and 5 years.
The world’s most expensive ham costs €4,100 a leg! The Spanish Iberico was declared the best ham in the world in 2016, and only 80 legs a year are produced. In supermarkets, you will pay anywhere from 30€ to 569€ for a whole ham. Ham in Spain is big business and connoisseurs are willing to pay for the best kind.
Iberico ham is the best because the cost of raising an Iberian pig is very high. It is a highly regulated business. By Spanish law, you can only have 1 free-range Iberian pig per hectare of land (that’s 2.5 acres)!
You can identify an Iberian pig by its flat back, ears that flop forward, long snout, and dainty ankles. You will recognize Iberico ham by the hoofs. The “black-hoofed” Iberian pigs can sometimes be born with a white hoof or two. You’re never going to see one for sale, though. People wouldn’t trust a white hoof on an Iberian pig, so the ham is sliced up and sold in packages instead.
An acorn-fed Iberian ham will eat around 800 kilos (over 1,700 pounds) of acorns during the last 3 months of its life. These factors contribute to the high price of Iberico ham.
The photo below shows what €40 million of ham looks like. Cutting jamón is really hard. Take a look at this BBC video.