Cured hams (hind extremities) from white pigs, produced in accordance with the traditional processes outlined in TSG regulations, with a minimum curing period of 7 months.
Delicate flavor with low salt content, the product has a characteristic and pleasant aroma, with a uniform and non-fibrous consistency and a non-greasy, firm texture.
The ham has a uniform external appearance, moist and profiled using the so-called Serrano or V cut. When sliced it has a pink to red/purple color, with creamy, glistening fat, which is white to yellow in color and has a pleasant aroma. It has a firm consistency in the muscle, and is slightly softer in the area containing adipose tissue. It should have a maximum aqueous content of 57% in the product with fat removed, measured uniformly using a 15mm-thick (± 2mm) (0.6 in (± 0.1 in)) cross-section of the ham taken from an area 4 centimeters (1.6 in) from the head of the femur (with the outer rind removed). It should also have a maximum humidity gradient of 12% between the external and central areas. Likewise, the maximum sodium chloride content over dry extract (with the fat removed), analyzed on the same sample as above, should be 15%.
Transport of the hams from the slaughterhouses and/or quartering rooms to the curing premises must always be carried out in strict compliance with sanitary legislation, in refrigerated vehicles, so that they arrive at their destination at a temperature not exceeding 3ºC (37.4ºF).
The hams are then subjected to a pressure process to remove the remaining blood from the blood vessels.
Just before the salting begins, the hams are marked in a legible and permanent manner, using a stamp that shows the week and year on which the salting began, so that their curing period can unmistakably be checked.
The ham is processed for a period of no less than 210 days, during which the following stages are carried out.
Firstly the hams are salted, by covering them in sea salt after being rubbed in nitrifying salts, thus favoring dehydration and preservation, as well as contributing to the development of the color and aroma so typical of cured products. The salting time depends on the weight, fat content and shape of the ham, varying between 0.65 days and two days per kilo (2.2 lbs) of weight, and is a necessary part of production to ensure that the end product meets with the established salt limits. The process is carried out at temperatures of between zero and four degrees centigrade (33.8 and 39.2ºF), with relative humidity of between 75 and 95%.
The pieces are then washed to remove any remains of salt on their surfaces, and are also brushed, where applicable. The hams must have a uniform shape and appearance, and may be further shaped and molded where necessary. Those, which will have a V cut presentation, are subjected to cutting and profiling operations.
The resting (or post-salting) stage aims to uniformly distribute the salt throughout the interior of the piece, as well as to inhibit undesirable microbe growth and to channel the biochemical hydrolysis processes which produce the ham’s characteristic aromas and flavors. It also leads to the slow, gradual elimination of surface water, allowing the pieces to develop better internal consistency. The hams remain at low temperatures (between zero and six degrees centigrade (32 and 42.8ºF), with relative humidity of between 70 and 95%. This stage must last for a minimum of 40 days.
Subsequently, when the pieces are dried and aged, the product is slowly dehydrated, and the "sweating" (natural fusion of part of the fats to the adipose tissue) takes place, when it is determined that sufficient drying has taken place. Throughout this stage, which lasts for a minimum of 110 days, the temperature is gradually raised, from 6 ºC (42.8 ºF) to a maximum of 34 ºC (93.2ºF), and the relative humidity is decreased to reach values between 60 and 80%.
Finally the ageing or maturation takes place, the period when the biochemical processes started in previous stages continue, with the intervention of the microbial flora that give the product its unique flavor and aroma. The hams remain in this stage the amount of time necessary so that a minimum of 365 days (10 months for product in portions) are completed from the placing of the ham in the salt to ensure minimal weight loss of 33% (compared to the piece’s weight), unless these values have both been reached in previous stages.
Therefore, the minimum curing time for Serrano ham, based on the weight of the piece, will never be less than 12 months (10 months for product in portions), counted from the date on which the salting process begins.
The entire curing process must be carried out with pieces still on the bone, and the products may be de-boned thereafter in order to meet the requirements of the various commercial presentation forms.
Once the process has finished, the ham must meet the following requirements:
- Minimum weight of nine and a half kilos (20.9 lbs) for those hams to be presented with the hoof intact, and nine kilos 200 grams (20.24 lbs) for those presented without the hoof.
- A minimum fat thickness of 0.8cm (0.3 in), measured at the point where the vastus lateralis muscle meets the upper point of the ischium bone (where the flank ends and meets the hip bone), so that the hams which will undergo the V cut will be coated in fat.
- They must not have been subjected to any smoking process, nor may they have been coated in pimentón or other spices.
The end product can be stored at room temperature, and the following commercial presentation formats are authorized:
- V cut, with or without hoof
- Round cut, with or without hoof
- Deboned with skin
- Deboned, V cut
- Deboned without skin or fat
- Other formats established by the Regulatory Council
The TSG product is identified by a Reserva label for Serrano hams that have been cured for more 12 months and a Gran Reserva label for those cured for more than 15 months. There are also rear identification labels for presentation of anything less than a full piece (half pieces, third pieces, quarter pieces, diced ham and slices) for those Serrano hams with no less than 10 months curing.
Hind extremities of white pigs, salt.
All year round
The following qualities have been established, based on curing time:
- Label Reserva: Serrano hams cured for more than 12 months.
- Label Gran Reserva: Serrano hams cured for more than 15 months.
- Label: for Serrano hams cured for more than 10 months, sliced or in portions