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Jabugo ham is ham that has been produced and manufactured in the town of Jabugo (Huelva). This town, which is covered by the Certificate of Origin “Jamón de Huelva” (Huelva Ham), has produced hams from time immemorial and its fame is such, that people have come to believe that the Jabugo hams comes from a particular species of pig of its own, which is not the case. The best hams produced in the Jabugo area come from Iberian pigs, some of which are a variant of a local species: the “manchado” (spotted) Jabugo, which has white marks on its skin. Therefore, the best Jabugo ham is, in fact, 100% Iberico ham.
“Serrano” does not refer to the species, but only to the cut of the jam; it only indicates the type of cut, in “V”, used to obtain the leg of ham. Therefore, Serrano ham can also be from non-Iberian pigs, which are not bred in the wild nor fed on acorns, so it does not have the exclusive taste guaranteed by the Iberian pig fed on accorns.
Pata negra refers to the colour of the trotter, but not all Iberian pigs have black trotters, nor are black trotters exclusive to this species. The maximum quality is determined, basically, by the species and the feed, and thus an Iberian pig fed on acorns will give, if the drying and curing processes are suitably carried out, the best possible hams.
They are crystallisations made up mainly of amino acids called thyroxin, which appear during the breakdown of the proteins. They are not at all harmful; quite the contrary, they are usually a sign of optimum cure and maturity.
Between 30% (leg ham) and 40% (shoulder ham) of the weight of the ham is bone. Cut up into pieces it makes a great ingredient for soups and stews.
The difference in price is due to the fact that there is more meat on the legs and to the time necessary for their maturity: hams are cured for 36 to 42 months while shoulder-hams need only to be cured for 18 to 24 months. Also note that the percentage of meat in the hams (average weight 7,5 Kg.) is higher than in the shoulder ham (average weight 5 kg.) which is more bony.
Once you have opened the leg of ham, or just before doing so, it should be kept in a cool, dry place. Cover the cut area with the skin and fat of the ham, to prevent it from drying, and losing its aroma and flavour.
The optimum stay in the cellars is, approximately, between 36 to 42 months for legs of hams and between 18 and 24 months for shoulders of ham. After this there is a risk that the ham will become too dry, although hams weighing 9 kg to 10 kg that have been in the cellars for over 5 years, have been tested with excellent results
When they are growing, pigs need to be fed other types of food to develop and build their bone structure. However our pigs begin to pasture from a very early age, when they reach about 40 kg., feeding from then on mainly on acorns and natural vegetation.
There is a preference for the back legs (ham) over the front legs (shoulder-ham), as these give a better cut, but the flavour is practically the same. The percentage of meat in the hams (average weight 7,5 Kg.) is higher than in the shoulder ham (average weight 5 kg.) However, when buying, one should choose ham or shoulder-ham depending on the weight of the piece, taking into account that it should be consumed within 3 to 4 weeks once you start cutting the ham.
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