Cured ham, as we know it today, originated from the need to preserve food. So, ham was invented many years ago.
If you want to know who invented serrano ham, at Enrique Tomás, we will delve into the history of gastronomy to discover how the idea of curing with salt was born and who is credited with this marvelous invention.
Let's get started!
A bit of history
Let's go back in time, about 5000 years, without the benefits of technology and facing the same climatic challenges and needs. In this reality, human beings, always eager for knowledge and evolution, began by creating ice pits, the first primitive refrigerators.
From there, the discovery of other preservation methods was just a step away. Smoking, marinating, drying, and salting were some of these methods, and specifically, the last two are what we are interested in to trace the origins of ham production. We know that humans were already preserving meat by drying it in the sun. Then came fire, leading to cooking and smoking. Finally, the revolution of salt arrived, changing everything forever.
The development of human civilization owes much to salt, considered in many places as the famous "white gold." Salt was already used as a seasoning during the time of the Chinese emperor Huangdi, around 2670 B.C.
The Egyptians, in the time of the pharaohs, used to salt meats to preserve them for a longer time. The Celts were also involved in salt mining, as was the case with the city of Salzburg in Austria, whose name means "city of salt."
But if we already had the preservation method refined, who invented serrano ham? Who came up with the idea to preserve meat from scratch...
Origin of Gran Reserva Ham
We know that pigs arrived on the Iberian Peninsula through the Phoenicians, at least all indications point to this when they established their first settlement around 1100 B.C in what is now known as Cádiz, previously called Gádir.
Another detail from history is that in the immediate period after the Roman Empire, the Iberians were already trading in some cured meats, including ham. You probably know the saying that goes, "from head to toe." Well, this has to do with the fact that the pig has always been a highly valuable resource for meeting the dietary needs of the population. During Roman times, ham, the most prized part of the pig, was an exclusive food for the wealthiest classes, but everything was utilized.
As explained in the book "Jamón para Dummies", in the history section:
During the Roman Empire
But did the Romans invent ham? The truth is that we don't know who invented serrano ham for sure. However, there is an interesting legend that tells us that ham, like many great inventions, was created by accident and chance. It is said that a pig fell into a stream with water containing a high salt content and drowned.
The pig in question was collected by some shepherds who roasted it to eat. Then they discovered that salted meat had a much more pleasant taste, especially the limbs. From that moment on, the word spread, and when a pig was slaughtered, its front and rear legs were soaked in salt for a period of time.
And little by little, the taste was perfected. Be that as it may or whoever its legacy belongs to, it has reached our days, and, obviously, with current techniques and knowledge, we have created a world-renowned gastronomic product that also established itself on our peninsula thanks to the climate, expertise, and the sheer necessity of its inhabitants.
Tradition, in the case of ham production, is a sure and necessary value; after all, don't you think so?