Historia del jamón, ¡Descubre sus orígenes! - Enrique Tomás

History of ham, discover its origins!

Iberian ham is our most popular and internationally renowned gastronomic treasure, but what is the history of ham? When did the salting of pig legs begin? At Enrique Tomás, we're going to delve into the origins of ham; let's get started!

Ham in History

Obviously, 5,000 years ago, our ancestors couldn't go to the supermarket to buy all the food they needed and store it in the refrigerator, so people of that time had to come up with ways to prevent the meat they obtained from hunted animals from spoiling.

Smoking and marinating, among others, are some of the techniques that began to be used to preserve different types of meats. However, undoubtedly, the appearance of salt changed everything. Salting and drying of food are the techniques that interest us the most because once perfected, they allowed for the production of the first hams.

The use of salt as a preservative was fundamental for the development and growth of the human species and, of course, for our most precious delicacy, Iberian ham. However, when did the use of salt to preserve pork, specifically the meat from their extremities, begin?

Illustrative image of ham in Roman times

In the Iberian Peninsula

It is believed that the pig arrived in the Iberian Peninsula with the Phoenicians around 1100 B.C. in what is now Cádiz. They were the ones who created the first salinas (salt pans) and secaderos (drying facilities) on the coasts of the southern and eastern Iberian Peninsula. There is also evidence that in the period just before the Roman Empire, the Iberians were already trading some cured meats. Therefore, when the Romans arrived on the peninsula, ham already existed. However, it was the Romans who popularized the salting techniques. At that time, they already distinguished between ham, known as pernam, and the shoulder, called petasonem.

However, Muslim rule in the peninsula introduced some restrictions on ham production because everything derived from the pig was prohibited in this religion. Nevertheless, in Christian territories, breeding and slaughtering continued, taking place in monasteries and convents, as those were the places where the necessary conditions for producing these foods existed.

During the 12th and 13th centuries, Spain grew and developed livestock farming. Our products were increasingly exported, and hams and shoulders began to gain fame. However, it wasn't until the 19th century that it became popular among all social classes. You've probably heard the saying "Every part of the pig is used," but, of course, ham became its most prized part.

But what happened next? Is it still produced in the same way?


Ham Today

From the late 19th century to today, the ham industry has experienced unstoppable growth. So much so that at the Universal Expositions in Paris (1867) and Vienna (1873), among others, Iberian hams were already receiving awards. As mentioned earlier, ham became more and more popular. The ham industry began to expand throughout the territory, and the advent of technology allowed for greater control over the process. Today, both technological and traditional producers coexist; some use automated systems, while others continue to manually open and close the windows of drying facilities. However, the goal of both is the same: to produce the best Iberian ham.

But 1960 was a very important year for ham on the Iberian Peninsula, as it was the first time that attention was paid to the breed and the production system, with the aim of producing it extensively. Since then, the Iberian breed of our Iberian pig has become something unique in the world due to its breeding and the spectacular delicacy it offers. Its pleasant texture, intense flavor, and unique aroma make it very exclusive and delicious.

At Enrique Tomás, we are genuine lovers of Iberian ham, which is why we make sure to offer the best product on every table. Now that you know the history of ham, it's time to enjoy it! We invite you to go from theory to practice—the best part!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.