Serrano looks like Italian Prosciutto, and is always sold thinly sliced like Prosciutto, but it is less fatty than Prosciutto and ends up with less moisture than Prosciutto, giving it a more concentrated taste. Consequently, Serrano Ham is more expensive than Prosciutto.
It is made from a breed of pigs called White Hogs that are fed on commercial feed. If the same pigs are fed on acorns, they are used for making Jámon Iberico instead, which is more expensive than Serrano.
The legs of the pigs are leg trimmed, cleaned, and rolled in salt to cover them for up to two weeks. The salt is washed off, because the ham needs to end up sweet. More salt would ensure a higher success rate — chances are 1 out of 5 hams dried at home go bad — but the ham wouldn’t be as sweet.
The legs are then hung to age for anywhere from a few months up to two years or more. The average aging time is 9 months. The hams have to be monitored during the drying. The temperature at which they are aged is gradually increased. The meat will lose about 1/3 its weight in moisture during the aging.
All aging used to be done in farmhouses up in the attics. There, the householders would have a room with slatted windows with no glass in it, to let in cold air in the winter during the aging. Though farmers still make their own hams, aging for commercial production is now done in factories with special cold storage areas.
There are 4 areas in Spain in which Serrano Ham can be made: parts of the provinces of Extremadura, Salamanca, Huelva and the entire province of Teruel.
Serrano Ham is PDO protected in the EU.
Needs no cooking.
Store in refrigerator, but let come to room temperature before serving.
Serrano in Spanish means “mountains”.
McLaughlin, Katy. Despite U.S. Clamor, These Little Piggies Stay Home in Spain. Wall Street Journal. 20 July 2004.