Serrano Ham vs PDO Teruel Ham


We’ve already talked in this blog about the differences between Serrano Ham and Iberian ham. This time, we want to demonstrate the differences between Serrano ham and PDO Teruel Ham, which some people still mistakenly called Teruel Serrano Ham. However, before entering into more technical aspects, we firstly want to make it clear what we should call Serrano Ham and what is PDO Teruel Ham.

If there is a generic term to name the product that we make in Spain from a pig’s back legs, this term is doubtlessly jamón – ham. However, traditionally, and given that this product has been made in mountain areas, ham in Spain has been given the surname Serrano. However, we want to make it clear that to be able to currently call a product Serrano Ham, it should meet a set of conditions laid out by a European quality standard: the TSG (Traditional Specialities Guaranteed) Serrano Ham. If it is not certified, it cannot use this name.

In turn, to be able to pair the product with the word Teruel, the ham must have been made within the protection of the Control Board for the Teruel Ham and Shoulder Protected Designation of Origin. Otherwise, it can never be labelled or promoted with the term ‘Teruel’.

Whether it is from a white pig or Iberian pig, if a ham does not meet any standards – TSG, Serrano Ham, Iberian Standard, or any of the IGP and PDO that exist in the ham sector, it can only be called cured ham.

Two hams made from white pigs. But are they the same?

The similarity between Serrano Ham and Teruel Ham is that they both come from white pigs. These pigs, including many races, have a shared legacy: the Celtic line. However, the different white pig races have characteristics, above all in terms of fattening, that make them extremely different.

While races such as the Pietrain, Landrace or Large White are eminently lean, the Duroc race has a greater quantity of fat, both intramuscular and subcutaneous. This difference means that the hams obtained from the latter race, or a cross with another race, have a greater fat content. This leads to tastier hams and allows for longer curing.

The conditions for the TSG Serrano Ham do not specify the race. In turn, the Teruel PDO guarantees that the ham always comes from pigs crossed with a Duroc on the paternal line. This guarantee is also seen in the differences in the required minimum fat thickness: 8 mm (on the top where the thin flank finishes and it meets the hip bone) for Serrano compared to 16 mm (measured in the lumbar region near the tip of the leg) in Teruel ham. For these same reasons, race and fattening, the minimum weight of the pieces is also different for each type. The TSG requires a minimum of 9.2 kg for hams without the hoof and 9.5 kg if they keep their hoof. The Teruel PDO certifies the minimum weight of the carcass (86 kg) and not the fresh piece, although it does guarantee a dry weight of no less than 7 kg.

Origin and feeding

A Protected Designation of Origin product has strong ties to the territory in each and every process. This also refers to rearing the animal in the case of ham. Pigs intended to produce Teruel Ham are born, reared and slaughtered within the Aragonese province. Hams intended for Serrano TSG can come from anywhere in the world as long as they meet the European food quality and security standards.

There are also differences in how the pigs are fed. As with the origin of the pig, the Serrano standard refers to the legislation on animal feeding in force without evaluating the quality of the grain composition. A Teruel pig is fed, according to the specifications, with grain that is composed of at least 50% cereal that should also come from the province of Teruel or a neighbouring province.

Race and feeding are two decisive factors when it comes to getting better quality ham. The third aspect is how it is produced.

Everyone does it their own way and everyone’s way does…but there are some minimum requirements

After slaughter, deboning and shaping the ham, then it goes to the drying spots. Both Serrano Ham and Teruel Ham will have passed checks so far and they are going to continue to do so from when they start the salting until they are labelled for sale. A while ago, we talked about salting the ham. And although it is true that each manufacturer has their own way of doing it, nobody wishing to follow one of the two quality standards can ignore these limits: for Serrano Ham between 0.65 and 2 days/kg; for Teruel Ham, between 0.65 and 1 day per kg. This is definitely an important point, because although it is true that the industry is tending to reduce the level of salt, we can ensure you that a Teruel ham has much less chance of being salty than a Serrano Ham, always speaking in general terms.

Another point regulated by the specifications for these standards is the post-salting or settling time. In the case of Serrano ham, the minimum time required is 40 days, with a maximum temperature of 6ºC and relative humidity between 75 and 95%. In turn, Teruel Ham must spend a minimum of 60 days at a maximum temperature of 6ºC  and relative humidity over 70%. This aspect is not as decisive in itself for the final quality of the product, but it demonstrates that Serrano ham is going to have lower minimum curing time.

And this minimum curing time is the last differentiating factor that we are going to talk about. Having met all the previous requirements, we can label a piece as TSG Serrano Ham when it has completed a minimum curing time of 210 days in total, in other words, 7 months. In order to brand a ham with an eight-point star and the word Teruel and add the CRDO seal, it must have been in salt for a minimum of 14 months.

Race, food and production have given us a good overview. Having said that, we would like to highlight that these standards only set the bare minimum. In our case, we do not accept fresh pieces, either for Serrano ham or Teruel ham, that weigh less than 11.5 kg when fresh. We are very demanding concerning the origin of the pig and the fat thickness. What’s more, hams do not leave our facilities that have been cured for less than 18 months. Choosing one product or the other already depends on subjective factors.

At La estrella del jamón, we are proud to produce our TSG Serrano Ham and our PDO Teruel Ham, and even Iberian Ham, we always like to say that all ham is good, and that everyone has their own particular palate, the right time and their ideal price. However, we also like to be transparent and call a spade a spade, so this blog entry has shown you the differences between these two amazing products.

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