The Spanish government approved a new labeling system that will make it easier for you to distinguish each grade. There are four different grades, the best being Jamón Ibérico de Bellota or pata negra (black hoof pigs), which only account for 5% of total ham production.
These hams are made from Ibérico pigs, which spend their lives roaming in the dehesa and are raised on grass, herbs, grains and their mother´s milk. They also feast on the nutty sweet holm and cork tree acorns for at least 3 to 4 months, which gives them it´s final distinct flavor.
Once they are slaughtered, the curing process begins. At this point, the hams are salted and left to dry in secaderos for at least 36 to 48 months. The exclusive black label is applied to these only.
Jamón de Bellota Ibérico – These hams come from a cross breed of Jamón Ibérico and Duroc, which roam freely in the dehesa (pasture) and are fattened with grass, aromatic herb and acorns. This type of ham carries the red label.
Cebo de Campo Ibérico. This type of ham also comes from Ibérico pigs but these are also crossbred with Duroc pigs and, unlike the Ibérico de Bellota pigs, they enjoy a shorter free-range period and are ultimately fattened with grains. The label on these cured hams is green.
Jamón de Cebo Ibérico. These Iberian pigs, also half bred with Duroc pigs, are also considered great tasting but are grain fed only. Look for the white label, if you´d like to try the difference.
So, what is Jamón Serrano? These hams come from the landrace breed of white pigs, which were raised on farms, where they feed on grains alone and are cured for less time than the above and in high altitudes and dry climates. There are also two different types of Jamón Serrano: the gold and the silver.