Some of our team took a short break from private catering and cheffing dinner parties, to visit Madrid.
The capital of Spain has so much to offer to tourists but we concentrated on visiting three of it’s many art galleries. The Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisa. The collections are breath taking and enormous. It would be quite impossible to see everything in such a short visit and so we concentrated on just three or four painters. Hieronymus Bosch in the Prado, Cubism in the Sofia where the famous Guernica painting is on display and Goya in the Thyssen.
Of course Madrid is also famous for Tapas and we were particularly impressed by the Mercado de San Miguel. This historic, wrought iron clad indoor market is nowadays a food lovers paradise and is one of the more fashionable places for Tapas and wines.
We really liked this Jamon stand. If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between Serrano, Iberico and Iberico de Bellota, read on…..
Spanish Hams Explained
The types and qualities of Spanish hams are determined by the breed of the pig, how and where it was raised, and how it was processed.
These hams are protected by Denominación de Origin or the Consorcio del Jamón Serrano Español which ensure that the hams that bear their seal deliver the quality and flavors synonymous with the name.
Bellota grade Ibérico ham (Jamón Ibérico de Bellota)
The name comes from the breed. Ibérico pigs, which have spent the last three to four months of their lives eating rich, sweet acorns that have dropped from the ground from holm and cork trees in the meadows of a region called the dehesa. This period of grazing on the open range is called the montanera, and the pigs add about half their weight during this period.
The coveted hams they produce are unique in the world: beautiful nutty ham slices which glisten when they are served because 60% of their marbled fat contains healthy mono triglycerides (like olive oil) that melt at room temperature. Because of its quality, many connoisseurs have referred to Jamón Ibérico Bellota as the “Beluga caviar of hams.”
Recebo grade Ibérico ham
These are hams from Ibérico pigs who have have enjoyed a shorter free range acorn grazing period or added less than 50% to their weight during the montanera, and are subsequently fattened and brought to market weight with cereal feed.
Cebo grade Ibérico ham
These are hams from Ibérico pigs who were raised on a diet of cereal feeds.
Ibérico ham These are hams from Ibérico pigs, usually cross-bred with white pigs, which were raised on farms and fed cereal feeds, without a period of free range grazing.
The official breed and quality designations by the Spanish Government (in Spanish)
Teruel ham, Trevélez ham, Gran Serrano ham
These hams are from white or Duroc pigs, who were raised on farms and fed cereal feed, and then cured for more than one year at high altitudes in dry climates such as Teruel and Sierra Nevada.
Oro (gold) Serrano ham, Plata (silver) Serrano ham
Hams from white pigs, who were raised on farms and fed cereal feed, then cured for over 12 months anywhere in Spain.
Hams from white pigs, who were raised on farms (usually outside of Spain) and fed cereal feed raised, and then processed in Spain, and cured for less than 8 months.
Hams from Spain are commonly offered in the following cuts, whether made from Ibérico pigs or others.
Bone-in and Boneless Whole Hams (back legs)
Bone-in and Boneless Paletas (shoulders)
Lomos (cured pork loins)
Chorizos and Salchichónes (sausages)
So there you have it!