Spanish Ham Types & Classifications of Iberico Ham

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Classifications of Iberico Ham

When looking into Iberico Ham, you will find that there are 4 classifications which are identified with a colour coding system. Each colour tells you about the breed of the pig, the diet and production of the Jamon, and how the meat will taste/feel. So, here is a little more information about the classifications of Iberico Ham. 

classifications if iberico ham - iberico ham colour coding - types of spanish ham

Black Label: Pata Negra de Bellota

The Black Label Iberico Ham is considered the very finest of all Iberian cured meats. In Spanish, the Black Label Jamon is often referred to as Pata Negra (Black Hoof in Spanish) or Jamon Iberico De Bellota, which translates to: Iberico Ham of Acorns. The name comes from the Diet of the pig while it is being raised; it is the acorns which gives the Jamon it’s famous nutty nuanced and flavors, and gives the Jamon that ‘melt in the mouth’ texture. To look at, the Black Label often looks ‘sweaty’ and the fat is soft to touch. If you look closely you may also see little specs of white in the meat – this is a calcification/chemical reaction that is caused by the acorns- it isn’t exclusive however to this classification of Iberico Ham, but more common.

One of the main reasons why the Black Label is so expensive is because there is only a limited amount that can be produced in one batch. A pig must consume up to 10kgs of acorns a day and one singular tree can only produce 300kgs during one season. This means that there must be a lot of land for all those trees and for the pigs to roam around in; just to get enough acorns to eat. Then the curation process takes up to 48 months for the biggest Jamones. It is very difficult to produce the Black Label. 

The Jamon is tested after production to ensure that the fat has the correct chemical composition; that takes a lot of acorns and requires the animal to have a lot of exercise. A fun fact, often the animals with broken hoofs are the very best, this damage shows that the animal has been able to get enough exercise. 

You may find examples of Black Label Jamon products by clicking here.

Red Label

Second to the Black Label, you may also find ‘Red Label’ Jamon. This Jamon is produced in exactly the same way as the Black Label however, the breed of the Black Iberian Pig is not 100%. Usually, the breed of a Red Label can vary from 50% to 75%. The most useful bit of information that we can share about the Red Label Jamon is that the taste, texture and meat quality is almost identical to the Black Label. On a taste test, many people may not be able to notice the difference. With that in mind, there is a big difference in price. The Red Label is priced at roughly 10% lower than the advertised price of a Black Label. The Red Label Jamon is cured for between 36-48 months. 

Green Label: Jamon Iberico De Campo

The most popular Jamon in Spain is the Green Label, this is due to its fair price and intense flavor. The name in Spanish, de Campo, roughly translates to ‘of the country/land’- mainly referring to the free range nature of the pig. The Green Label pig has a diet of both acorns and grain, which means that the Jamon is easier and more cost effective to produce. This production also gives the Jamon a chewier texture which creates a unique intensity and salty flavor. There are many who consider the green label as superior in taste to the Black, Or Red Labels. 

If you are really lucky- you may get a green label at the same quality as the Black Label. Most producers try to create Black Labels, and those Jamons that fall short are by default given a green classification. You can spot the really good ones by their ‘sweatier’ appearance, white spots and nuttier flavors. The Green Label is cured for between 24-36 months. 

You may find examples of Green Label products by clicking here.

White Label: Jamon Iberico de Cebo 

White Labels are considered the worst of the Iberian Hams. These animals are produced with a diet of grain, are not free range and are not 100% Black Iberian Pig breed. This Jamon is also cured for the shortest time possible to produce the highest yield. A Jamon Iberico de Cebo is comparable to a good Serrano ham; the flavor is salty and porky like a rasher of bacon. 

This is the cheapest Jamon that you can buy, but honestly we do not think it is worth it. If you are looking for an Iberico Jamon, you best spend the little extra to get a green label. 

Serrano Ham

Serrano Ham is one of the most popular Spanish hams in the UK. It is fairly cheap, easy to get access to and has a great porky taste. It is however, of a lesser quality compared to the Iberico Jamon range. The breed of the pig is a standard white European pig and is fed a diet of purely grain. It is then cured for the shortest amount possible which is 3 to 6 months. This product is produced in a way to create maximum yield, at a low cost which can be sold to make a profit. Now, that is perfectly fine. A good Serrano can taste pretty spectacular, but when it is compared to an Iberico Jamon, there is absolutely no competition.