Spanish Iberico hams are a fantastic agricultural product with deep roots in the country’s traditional ways. The delectable ham has been perfected for thousands of years, and it’s now one of the most regulated and respected cured hams on earth.
The more you learn about what you love, the more you enjoy it, and today that means knowing a bit more about Spanish ham’s history. Let’s go back a few thousand years and learn more about the tasty treat we all know and love. This is the history of pigs and Spanish ham.
Pigs Go Way Back!
To understand ham, we must first talk about the domestication of pigs. After all, after chicken, pork is the most consumed meat on the planet, and it is enjoyed in every corner of the earth.
The wild boar was domesticated around 13,000BC in Mesopotamia and a separate event in China 8,000 years ago. Pig husbandry evolved throughout the ages, and different breeds were adapted to distinct cultures and conditions.
The Phoenicians, skilled traders, took the first domesticated pigs to the Iberian peninsula sometime between 626-605 BC. These pigs were interbred with local wild boars giving birth to the ancestors of modern Iberian pigs.
The Celts and their love for Pigs
The Celts, who dominated most of Europe, including the Iberian Peninsula, between the 6th and 1st centuries BC, held pigs in high esteem. The animal was more than food — sculptures were erected in pigs’ honor!
Of course, to preserve pig’s highly priced meat, people used a wide variety of ancient techniques, including salting and air-curing. They made sausages, ham and other preserved meats to extend pork’s shelf life.
Discovering that the ham produced from the local Iberico pigs was of such high quality was probably quite exciting for these ancient civilizations. Their secret, though, was soon to be discovered by the entire world.
The Roman’s Affair with Spanish Iberian Ham
The Ancient Romans took Europe by storm and incorporated all territories into their empire. They did so passively, though, as they allowed local cultures to preserve their traditions. This is how the Romans discovered Spanish cured meats, which became a valuable commodity that was particularly prized in Rome.
The famous Iberian ham gained immense fame — one that would outlive the Romans. By the 1st century AC, the Roman Empire was giving way to the dark Middle Ages, and although we lost a great deal of knowledge and tradition during the transition, the Iberian ham lived on.
Spanish Iberian Ham Perfected
During the middle ages, the production of cured ham was perfected, particularly by monks, and ham became a delicacy reserved for the highest classes.
Ham had gained wide acclaim and was later elevated to cult status during Spain’s Golden Era. Things went up from there. During the 20th century, the government created laws to protect the country’s cured meats and guarantee their quality, and an international market for the ham grew to what we know today.
Today you'll find ham from pigs fed with acorn online, gourmet gifts, the famous Jamon Spain is known for, and many other delicacies to enjoy with your brothers, sisters and parents. You'll be delighted in Spanish cuisine!
Croquettes, Spanish sandwich, Spanish tartare, white apsragus, higos (figs in spanish), piquillo pepper, Spanish tortilla, huevos estrellados (sunny side-ups), paella valenciana and white asparagus. Spanish food has it all. And if you're in Spain, you'll see Spanish sausages even in pasta sauce for rigatoni! The meat cellar in the country is plentiful.
There’s no doubt Spanish ham is special, and it’s a synonym for Spanish culture. And now that you know its origins, let’s enjoy some jamon!