Iberico ham is no doubt one of the most representative products in Spanish history and culture. Tasting it is a unique pleasure like no other enjoyed equally by the five senses.
The nutritional properties provided by the Iberian pig breed, the breeding system and the acorn-fattening system make it so that, once cured, this ham is a source of health and wellbeing for the body and an essential part of the Mediterranean diet.
Iberico ham has a number of health benefits:
• Cardiovascular protection:
62% of these pigs’ fat is comprised of monounsaturated fatty acids and oleic acid which foster the production of HDL (good cholesterol) in the blood and reduce the levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) and fibrinogen (a substance related to blood coagulation).
That’s why, contrary to what many think, the fat you see in Iberico ham is beneficial to your health as it increases good cholesterol while reducing bad cholesterol.
Plus, since the salt content in Iberico ham is completely controlled throughout the curing process, it’s beneficial for people with high blood pressure problems.
• An antioxidant:
It’s got a high quantity of vitamin E or Tocopherol, also known as the vitamin of youth and beauty because it’s an antioxidant.
• Rich in vitamins and minerals:
It’s got vitamins B1, B6, B12 and folic acid, which are very beneficial to the nervous system and proper brain function, minerals like iron, copper and phosphorous, all sorts of proteins as well as other trace metals which help fight anaemia and foster growth and muscle and bone development in children and adolescents.
• Low in calories:
Iberico ham has less calories than any other dry cured meat as there are only 190 calories in 100 grams. In fact, it’s one of the basic components to be included in one’s daily diet since it’s been proven to lower lipids in the blood.
How can you tell the difference between Iberico ham and regular cured ham? With just a quick glance, anyone can see Iberico ham is different from other hams because it’s got a black hoof. What makes the Iberian breed so special is its physiological capacity to store fat between the muscles. Thus, products made with Iberico meat like Iberico ham feature the well-known fat infiltrations or veins which enhance the aroma, flavour and texture. Don’t forget this is “good” fat which makes it a healthy and nutritious product with immense culinary value.
On the other hand, while the minimum curing time for Iberico ham is 24 to 36 months, the curing time for other types of ham ranges from 7 months for cured ham, more than 7 months for Serrano ham, 12 months for a Bodega ham and 14 months for a Reserva ham.
Finally, the way a ham is carved is very important as well. According to Juan Carlos Gómez Sierra, Director of Iberico Product Business Development at Campofrio Food Group, a national ham carving champion and the author of the book “Ham: Choosing, Carving and Eating It”, “Ham carving is quite an artform and it must not be done just any which way. If you carve it properly, you can intensify the sensations when eating it and appreciate the flavour, aroma and texture much better. You must carve it in very fine, almost transparent, rashers and always in the direction from the hoof to the rump face. It’s also important for the rashers to be as wide as the ham so they have all the lean meat as well as the fat”.
Iberico ham is perhaps the most highly prized treasure in any Spanish pantry and the ambassador par excellence of this country’s gastronomy outside its borders. Its versatility means it can complement many Mediterranean diet dishes; however, eating it alone with a good wine is a real pleasure for the palate.