Spanish Food and Drink

Jamon Serrano and Jamon Iberico – What’s the difference?

Vacuum-packed Jamon Iberico

Photo: Vacuum-Packed Jamon Iberico – the single greatest souvenir a returning Spain-traveler can bestow on their loved ones.

Jamon Serrano:

– Doesn’t generally taste as good as Jamon Iberico.
– Is likely to choke you to death if you don’t cut it up into small pieces before putting it into your bocadillo (bread roll). I don’t want to go into details but beleive me, if you start swallowing half a 10 inch strip while still chewing the rest… scary… Spanish parents always chop Jamon Serrano up small for their kids for this very reason.
– Is usually machine-sliced and is more likely to be found in cheap bocadillos (which are therefore more likely to choke you!)

Jamon Iberico:

– Tastes so much better… alone, with morsels of bread, even with “is-this-nirvana?” jamon, egg and chips.
– Tends to be cut by hand, sliced thinner and in smaller sized pieces, and therefore:
– Is less likely to choke you when:
– Found in more expensive bocadillos.

These are fairly random observations (from someone who recently nearly choked to death on a cheap, train-buffet Jamon Serrano sandwich). But what is the actual physical difference between the two types of ham? I suspect there is an Iberico ham pig and a less refined Serrano ham pig. But within the Iberico pig category there are those with black feet (Pata negra), and others that are only fed on acorns (bellotas) for the last year of their life.

I know that eating pata negra, bellota-fed jamon iberico makes you feel somehow closer to heaven, but if anyone can help clear up the exact differences between Jamon Iberico and Jamon Serrano, I’d be very grateful! Answers/thoughts in the comments please!