Ten 'hamazing' facts you really need to know about Spanish jamón

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Ten 'hamazing' facts you really need to know about Spanish jamón
Spanish master ham cutter Florencio Sanchidrian cuts Spanish Ibérico (Iberian ham) 'Pata Negra'. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

Hog the limelight, ham it up or ‘boar’ your companions senseless the next time you are being ‘swined' and dined.


Jamón pays the bills

There is a special place in every Spaniard's heart for jamón serrano and ibérico. Indeed this delicious cured meat is such serious business here that having a top notch cortador, or professional cutter, is an honour that every quality Spanish restaurant aspires to. Regular competitions are held, in which speed and slice thinness are put to the test. Cortadores can expect to earn anywhere between €1,000 and €2,000 depending on experience.



Jamón’s most illustrious ambassador

Florencio Sanchidrián, (pictured above) is widely recognised as one of the world’s greatest cortadores de jamón. A rock star of the ham world, he travels the globe slicing the thinnest slivers possible commanding a fee of €3,700 ($4,000) a ham. His illustrious clients have included Barack Obama, George W Bush, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Robert Redford, Al Pacino and Silvio Berlusconi.

The Spanish human body is 80 percent water, 20 percent ham

Spanish people eat an average of 5 kg (11 pounds) of ham a year, twice that of Italians, making them the most ham-loving nation on earth. It goes up to 11.5 kilos a year if you include other cured meats such as chorizo, salchichón and fuet. 

Jamón is simply delectable, enough to make vegetarians reconsider their life choices. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)


The most expensive ham

Manchado de Jabugo is generally considered to be the most expensive jamón in the world, selling for €4,100 ($4,500) per leg, thanks in part to the fact that it's incredibly rare (latest stats show there were only around 50 adult male pigs remaining). However, the most expensive leg of jamón ever sold was a 100 percent Ibérico de Bellota cured for five years in Huelva and sold for an eye-watering €11,881 in Japan. 



The countries that love Spanish jamón 

France imported 11 million kilos of Spanish ham in 2022, beaten only by Germany with 12 million (although this includes other Spanish pork products). Neighbouring Portugal and European cousins Italy also appreciate the sliced delicacy, with 3 and 4 million kilos imported in 2022 respectively. Outside of Europe, the US is the biggest importer of Spanish jamón, and believe it or not there are two Spaniards who have found success in Texas since shipping 150 pigs from Andalusia and producing the first ‘Made in the US’ jamón.



The fastest cortador in the land is Diego Hernández Palacios, who beat the Guiness World Record in 2011 by cutting 2,160 slices of ham in one hour, which is the equivalent of 10kg of jamon. In terms of marathon meat slicing, Juan Bautista managed to cut 256 kilos of the good stuff over the course of 60 hours in 2023. 

Jamón slicing competitions are held regularly in Spain. (Photo by Jorge Guerrero / AFP)


Jamón is good for you, or is it?

Research has proven that ham from Iberian pigs fed on an acorn diet provide a rich source of oleic acid, so the mono-unsaturated fat in the jamón actually lowers bad cholesterol.  Only virgin olive oil has a higher oleic acid, hence the local nickname for the pigs as "olives on legs". However, as jamón is cured meat, it’s been classified as processed food and on two occasions the Spanish government has warned against its consumption for health reasons, much to the disgust of the Spanish public. 

READ MORE: Minister calls on Spaniards to cut down on carnivorous habits


Acorn-peeling pigs

Purebred black Iberian pigs peel each and every single one of the acorns they eat. On average each little porker destined to be turned in the top range Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, roams freely across the dehesas (meadows) rooting for acorns for between three-four months until it reaches its premium weight, gobbling up around 10 kilos of acorns a day. 

Iberian black pigs, which are allowed to roam freely to dine on acorns, are the stars of Spanish cuisine. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)


Jamón Jamón

In a roundabout way we have ham to thank for the creation of Spain’s Hollywood power couple Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem. The pair met for the first time during filming of “Jamón Jamón”, the 1992 movie directed by Bigas Luna, although it wasn't until they met again during Vicky Cristina Barcelona that the pair finally got together.


The Museum of Ham

Wander round Spain’s capital city and you’ll soon notice a ‘museo de jamón’ on nearly every street corner. While eager tourists clamour to take pictures of this ‘museum’, with its impressive collection of hanging hams, we’ll let you in on the truth - it’s actually a popular bar that serves A LOT of ham. 


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