The earliest written references to the salting of pig meat date from Roman times, towards the end of the second century B.C., and record the customs of the time for salting and preserving "dried pig meat". The recommendations of the time on sacrificing, quartering, salting and drying meat are still in use today, and it was already known at that time that, depending on the climate of the area where the meat was to be processed, it should be salted for a shorter or lengthier period of time.
It was also during the Roman Empire when we find the first indications of ham being cured in Spain, with allusions to the famous Cerretanian hams - "pernac cerretanae" - from Hispania, which appeared in Diocletian's Edict on Prices. The poet Martial also alludes to it in one of his epigrams: "From the country of Cerretania or Menapia, let me have a ham. Let gourmets devour ham."
Coins exist from the times of Agustus and Agrippa that allude to ham trade, as found in research done by Professor Juan González Blanco of the University of Granada.
14th century Spanish literature also alludes to the important role ham has played in our country, substantiated through various texts written by the Archpriest of Hita. Later, during the 17th century, universal writers and poets bore testimony in various literary genres of the quality and virtues of ham. Among these we should cite Miguel de Cervantes, in Don Quijote and other works, Lope de Vega in his comedies, Gongora, Tirso de Molina, Baltasar de Alcázar, Mateo Alemán, etc.
Beginning in the second half of the 18th century, and until the present day, Spanish hams have once again received international acclaim, consolidating the quality and fame they enjoyed in ancient times. They have been awarded with countless medals, diplomas and honorable mentions at Universal Expositions, specifically in Paris and Vienna, and form part of the most exquisite realm of European gastronomy.
The current process of producing hams is rooted in the traditional method, which began with sacrificing pigs during the last months of the year (Saint Martin, November 11), benefitting from the coldest months of the year for salting and post-salting, which must be done at low temperatures.
The rest of the process is done according to the natural cycle of the seasons, and with the arrival of spring and then summer, temperatures gradually began to warm up.
The process currently used for preparing Serrano ham reproduces this traditional method, beginning with an initial salting stage or phase, which is necessary to preserve the product, followed by a maturing-drying stage during which the characteristic flavors and aromas develop through microbiological and enzymatic biochemical activity. This, together with the qualities of the raw material, constitutes the traditional quality of this product and its distinguishing taste and aroma.