Talking about Spanish food, there is nothing so iconic like the famous Spanish ham. Spain produces some 40 million pounds per year, but basically there are only two types of ham that are cured: Jamón Serrano, which is literally translated as “ham from Sierra or mountains” (most of which comes from the Landrace type of pig) and Jamón Ibérico (Ham Iberian) it is from pigs, found in the prairie land which known as Dehesa. Dehesa once covered almost 90% of Spain but now lives only in the Andalucía, Extremadura and Salamanca regions. This is the difference between Serrano vs Iberico.
Serrano comes from the white pig. This pig is a hybrid that has been bred with many different breeds, and therefore not having the same quality as the Iberian pig, this product is cheaper to buy and accounts for the majority of hams sold in Spain. There are 3 main varieties of Serrano ham: Serrano Bodega, Serrano Reserva, and Serrano Gran Reserva. They all have a similar curing time, but no more than 15 months. Serrano ham, Parma ham among other are made of regular (pink) pigs, these pigs do not roam freely they are raised intensively in farms, they are fed on fodder and they do not make any physical exercise in order to fatten them as soon as possible which takes a toll on the flavour of their meat.
Take a look: Jamon Serrano vs Prosciutto.
Iberico ham is made from Iberian pigs, which is a unique breed in the world. This pig breed is raised in Spain in the southwest dehesas. Iberian pigs live and roam freely in a sole ecosystem known as “Dehesa” a brushwood of holm oaks and cork oaks. They feed on grass, acorns and herbs. This raising process is expensive because three Iberian pigs need two dehesa hectares of grass and acorns to live and develop. At the “montanera” time (when acorns fall from holm oaks), the Iberian pig will forage for acorns and it will double its bodyweight. The oils that acorns contain will penetrate into the Iberian pig muscles. This will give its unique taste to the Iberico ham and also the hazelnut scent. Roaming freely in the brushwood makes the Iberian pig crossing big distances everyday to find acorns, all this movement means Iberian pigs muscles are leaner and the fat of the acorn penetrated deeper into their muscles making their meat juicier and with an exceptional flavor.
|- Serrano comes from white pigs||- Iberico comes only from pigs that are at least 75% black Iberian pig|
|- This pig is a hybrid that has been bred and therefore not having the same quality as the Iberian pig||- Ibérico is much more expensive than Serrano, because of the breed, added expense of feed and herding, and added curing time.|
|- Serrano more likely to be found in cheap bocadillos||- Iberico was found in more expensive bocadillos|
Both are delicious and can be used in the same kinds of applications, but especially for Iberico, the meat is much more tastier than Serrano. Serrano doesn’t generally taste as good as Iberico, it’s because Iberian pigs possess a genetic peculiarity which allows them to form their fat in a very different way than other pig breeds, giving them unique characteristics in taste and smell.