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4 Cured Hams from Spain and Italy You Should Know

By Steve Dunn Published

In the world of imported cured hams, prosciutto may be top of mind, but speck, serrano, and Ibérico hams are equally worth seeking out.

You’re familiar with prosciutto, but what about speck, Jamón Serrano, and Jamón Ibérico? Learn more about these cured hams, including how they’re made and what they taste like.

What Is Cured Ham?

Prosciutto, speck, Jamón Serrano, and Jamón Ibérico all come from the pig’s hind leg, but the animal’s diet (and sometimes its breed) and different curing methods make each of these delicacies distinct. With each of these hams, the longer the aging period, the more funk and complexity to the flavor.

Cured Hams from Italy: Prosciutto di Parma and Speck

Prosciutto di Parma

To earn its name-protected status, this ham may only be produced from pigs raised in central and northern Italy and fattened partly on the whey of Parmigiano-Reggiano. 

Curing time: The meat is salt-cured for at least 12 months. 

Cost per pound: About $24 to more than $40. Supermarket prosciutto is a different, cheaper alternative that’s still tasty.

Tasting notes (for prosciutto aged 30 months): “Dry yet smooth,” with “nutty,” “funky” flavors


Speck

Speck comes from Alto Adige, the northernmost region in Italy bordering Austria and Switzerland. Its salt-based cure is typically laced with juniper and bay leaf. The meat is then lightly smoked.

Curing time: Speck is aged for an average of 22 weeks. 

Cost per pound: About $25 

Tasting notes: “Drier” with a “more concentrated” flavor than prosciutto and a “sweet, smoky, herbal finish” 


Cured Hams from Spain: Jamón Serrano and Jamón Ibérico

Jamón Serrano

With a name that translates as “mountain country ham,” this specialty is made from grain-fed pigs raised in any of Spain’s mountainous regions. 

Curing time: The meat is salt-cured for an average of 18 to 24 months. 

Cost per pound: About $35 

Tasting notes: “Tender and funky” like prosciutto but with a “heightened gaminess and nuttiness”


Jamón Ibérico

This costly delicacy comes from a special breed of black-skinned pigs native to the Iberian Peninsula. Four grades exist, determined by the pig’s diet and lifestyle as well as the duration of the cure. 

Curing time: Top-tier Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, salt‑cured for at least three years, is famously made from free-range pigs that forage for acorns in protected oak forests; it is also renowned for its deep savory flavor. Lower grades are made from grain-fed pigs cured for 12 to 24 months. Enjoy them all sliced paper-thin, accompanied by cheese and a glass of sherry. 

Cost per pound: $100 to $200 

Tasting notes (for third-tier Jamón Ibérico de Cebo de Campo): “Intensely buttery,” “sweet and nutty,” with a “barnyard-like gaminess”


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