Spanish cuisine is known worldwide for its rice dishes, stews, and, of course, its ham, especially the famous Iberian ham. Mastering the various curing methods is not as easy as it may seem, as it requires getting familiar with the product.
At Enrique Tomás, in addition to offering the finest cured products, we aim to educate people about the culture of ham. That's why today, we're going to help you understand where they come from and what the difference is between Gran Reserva and Bodega ham so that you can gradually become a ham expert.
If you've ever wondered what "ham de bodega" is, keep reading.
Classification of Ham Based on the Pig Breed
Ham is obtained from the hind legs of a pig, but depending on the pig's breed, it receives a different designation. Generally, a distinction is made between Iberian and White pigs. The former, as the name suggests, originate from the Iberian Peninsula and can only be raised in the Spanish plateau. The latter category, on the other hand, includes various pig breeds, such as Duroc (USA), Pietrain (Belgium), or Larga White (United Kingdom), among others.
Therefore, although the curing process for both types of ham follows the same phases, the required time differs. Both white and Iberian hams go through the stages of salting, settling, and curing, but white hams require a maximum of 18 months, whereas Iberian hams need a minimum of 24 months and a maximum of 36.
The so-called "ham de bodega" and Reserva hams are only produced using the meat of white pigs. Now that this is explained, let's see what categorizes them one way or the other.
Why Some Hams Are Reserva and Others Are from Bodega
As we've already mentioned, both types of ham come from white pigs, so they don't necessarily originate from the Iberian Peninsula; the pigs can be located anywhere in the world.
Therefore, if we organize hams from shortest to longest curing time, we can distinguish between Bodega ham, Reserva ham, and Gran Reserva ham. The first is ready in seven to nine months, the second requires between nine and 12 months, and the third reaches its peak at 15 months, although our Gran Reserva Ham exceptionally goes up to 18 months. At Enrique Tomás, we specialize in Iberian ham since it's native to our region, but we also offer Gran Reserva Ham.
The price of ham is influenced not only by the time it takes to prepare but also by supply and demand. Since we want everyone to enjoy ham, we also offer Gran Reserva, which is usually more affordable for every budget.
However, if you want to treat yourself, you can purchase sliced Iberian ham so that you can enjoy it as a tasting experience.
How to Tell the Difference Between Reserva and Bodega Ham
It's very difficult to tell the breed of a pig just by looking at a leg of ham. The difference between Iberian and white pigs is easier to spot, as the former have black hooves, while the latter have white hooves. However, distinguishing between different categories within each breed is more complex.
What you should always do is look at the labeling. On March 1, 2014, a new regulation on ham marketing came into effect in Spain. Concerning Iberian hams, a distinction was made between "cebo" and "bellota" hams and between purebred and the percentage of purebred pigs used. The labels for the first category are white or green, while the labels for the second category are red or black.
Iberian hams are considered purebred only if both parents are 100% Iberian. If not, the percentage of breed purity must be indicated. Therefore, only hams with a 100% breed purity can be called "pata negra" ham.
For white pigs, the labeling requirements are not as strict. Additionally, Bodega ham, unlike Reserva or Gran Reserva, is usually not sold as whole legs, and the legs that are in higher demand are typically Gran Reserva hams.
To conclude, it's worth noting that white pig hams produced in Spain usually come from regions like Teruel, Almería (also known as Serón), Granada (specifically Trevélez), or Segovia, such as the one we have.
Once again, at Enrique Tomás, we've explained everything you need to know so that you can gradually discover the various types of ham and become familiar with this delicious and popular product from our region. We hope our explanation today clarifying the difference between Reserva and Bodega ham has been helpful!