There are different types of Spanish hams available in the market depending on the characteristics of the pig they come from. Pig breeds are one of the factors that classify the hams. Cured Spanish hams can be roughly classified into two categories: Jamón Serrano (mountain ham) and Jamón Ibérico (Iberian ham).
Jamon Serrano - Serrano Ham
Jamón Serrano is the ham produced from white breed pigs whose meat is lean and has fat on the outside. The meat of Jamón Serrano is uniform, with a light red color, white or faintly yellowish fat and is slightly salty and characterized by a gentle fragrance. This type of ham, produced from typical white breeds, is popular with a mild flavor and approachable price. It takes one to two years to cure this type of ham.
Jamon Iberico - Iberico Ham
Jamón Ibérico hams come from the pigs of the Ibérico breed. The meat of Ibérico pigs is deep red, with beautiful marbling of golden fat. As a result, the ham is bathed in flavor as it cures over years.
The ultimate Jamón Ibérico is the Jamón Ibérico de Bellota. These come from acorn fed pigs that wander freely on the rangelands of southwestern Spain. Jamón Ibérico de Bellota hams are very flavorful, with strong, complex aromas, slightly salty but almost sweet with flavors of cooked sugar, nuts and herbs.
All Ibérico hams are also known as 'Jamón de Pata Negra', literally 'black hoof ham' in English. This is because the hoof and the skin of the Iberian pigs are usually black.