2.1. Raw Material Characteristics
Hams (osteomuscular pieces corresponding the rear limbs of the pig, cut at the ischio-public symphysis, and comprising the coaxial bone, femur, patella, tibia, fibula, tarsus, and optionally, the metatarsus and phalanges, as well as the surrounding muscle mass), must come from healthy pigs that have been slaughtered in accordance with all health and hygiene regulations established in current legislation.
Hams must have a minimum green (blood-in) weight of 9.5 kg for hams with foot, and 9.2 kg for hams without foot.
Minimum fat thickness is 0.8 cm measured at the intersection of the vastus lateralis and the upper end of the ischium (where the flank meets the hip bone), so hams presenting a V-shaped cut are covered in fat.
Transportation to the slaughterhouse and the slaughtering of animals, as well as receipt of dressed carcasses and subsequent quartering shall be done in accordance with current health legislation (Directive 64/433/EEC). Industries manufacturing Serrano ham must comply with the provisions found in Directive 77/99/EEC.
Transport of hams from the slaughterhouse and/or quartering rooms to the manufacturing industries must be done in accordance with current health legislation. They must be transported in refrigerated vehicles and arrive at the production plants with an internal temperature not greater than 3º C.
Hams which will be sold with a V-shaped cut will undergo trimming and sectioning, as per the diagram found at the end of this specifications sheet.
The following hams will not be admitted by the industry for Serrano ham production:
2.2. Production Process
Prior to beginning the production process, hams must be preserved in the conditions required to maintain a maximum internal temperature of 3º C.
The hams will then undergo a pressure process to remove all remaining blood from inside the piece.
Immediately before the curing process begins, the hams are marked with a legible, indelible seal indicating the week and year the curing process was begun so that a certified check can be made regarding the curing period.
The ham shall be cured for a period of no less than 210 days, which shall include the following phases:
Ordinary salt and salting agents included in Directive 94/2/EC are added to the muscle mass in order to help dehydrate and preserve the piece, as well as to give the ham the characteristic color and taste of cured products.
The piece is first rubbed with nitrifying salts, mentioned above, and then covered with sea salt.
The salting period depends on the weight, fat content and shape of the ham, and shall last between 0.65 and 2 days per kilo of ham in order for the finished product to obtain the salt content established in section 4.1.3.
The process shall be carried out with environmental conditions between 0º C and 4º C and relative humidity (RH) between 75 and 95%.
2.2.2 Washing - Brushing
The purpose of this phase is to eliminate salt residue from the surface of the piece.
Once the salting process has finished, the pieces undergo a process to eliminate salt residue from the surface, including brushing where required.
Hams should present a uniform shape, and may be shaped manually if required.
2.2.3 Left to Stand or Post-Salting
This phase serves to channel the biochemical processes of hydrolysis (lipolysis and proteolysis), which will produce the ham's characteristic aroma and flavor.
It also helps to slowly and gradually eliminate surface moisture, helping the ham to take on a better external consistency.
During this phase, the hams are kept at low temperatures, between 0º C and 6º C, with a relative humidity (RH) of between 70 and 95%.
Pieces remain in this phase for at least 40 days.
2.2.3 Drying - Maturing
The general dehydration process continues during this phase, as well as sweating or the natural merging of the fatty parts of the adipose tissue, at which time it is considered that the piece has been dried sufficiently.
Throughout this phase the temperature will gradually be raised from 6º C up to a maximum of 34º C, and relative humidity will be reduced to between 60 and 80%.
Hams shall remain in this phase for a minimum of 110 days.
2.2.3 Aging or Finishing
The biochemical processes initiated in previous phases continue during this period. Microbiological and enzymatic processes occur to give the ham its characteristic flavor and aroma.
Hams shall remain in this phase as long as required to complete the minimum 210-day production period, beginning with the salting phase and until they have reached a minimum moisture loss of 33% as compared to green (blood-in) weight, unless both of these values were obtained during previous phases.
The minimum curing time for a Serrano ham, therefore, depends on the weight of the piece and shall under no circumstances be less than 7 months, beginning from the date on which the salting process began.
Once the process has been completed, the ham may be stored at room temperature.
The integral curing process must be performed on the entire osteomuscular piece using one of the presentations shown in section 2.1. It may later be deboned in order to prepare it for various commercial presentations.
Hams are at no stage smoked or coated with paprika or other spices.