Myths and Legends about Spanish Ham

The Spanish Ham it´s a worlwide known product, it represents the Spanish gastronomy and its culture. Next to its popularity we can find a lot of myths and legends.  We´ll try to clear out all this foolery.


  • Pata Negra Ham it´s the best one

Pata Negra is neither an exclusive feature nor means better quality. Most Iberian Pig´s paws (pata) are dark (negra), so it can be a requirement when buying an Iberian Ham but there are other features more important as the feeding of the animal and the race purity which will determine the quality and the final taste.

If you read Pata Negra, first read carefully the label.

  • Female´s Pig Hams are better than Male´s ones

Some decades ago, males’ pigs were castrated at 1 year. You could appreciate a different taste in the piece comparing to the female´s, due to the higher level in testosterone and other hormones.

Nowadays you don´t have to worry. At one month, the piggy´s are castrated and you can´t appreciate the difference in the final product.


  • Left leg it´s better than the right one

People tend to think that the pig always rest on his right leg so that´s why left one is preferred. Forget about it! The animal rest on the both legs, just like us!


  • Ask for the ham without its paw

Depending on our location, we can see the hams either with or without the paw. This is not a distinctive of more quality. One more time, we´ll have to look for the label where we will find the important information.

We have to be careful with that because sometimes the White pigs hams have their paws cut out and sold them as Iberian, increasing its price.


  •  The Bellota (Acorn) Iberian Pig only eats Acorns

The Iberian Acorn-Fed Pig it´s extensively reared, he roams freely in the dehesa and, although it´s true he eats Acorns, he feeds also from grass and wild herbs.

  •  Once the ham is opened, protect it with their own fat

This is a typical behaviour in the Spanish culture, however it´s not the best thing to do when we want to conserve the taste and texture of the ham. As the fat it´s from the same piece, it can have other properties that can alter the flavour. You can protect it by covering the piece with a cotton cloth and leave the piece in a place without direct light and air currents

  • The ham has mold, it´s rotten!

It´s true a ham with mold it´s not very attractive, nevertheless it´s part of the traditional curing process. The mold it´s a bacterial film that stabilize the fats in a traditional way. So, it´s a mark of a well-crafted and quality curing process of the piece. You can always remove it with a cotton cloth damped in olive oil.

Psst! The old-timers will tell you they wouldn´t want one without it.


  • The White spots on the ham

On the cut of the Ham we can see little white spots but unlike most people tend to think, they are not salt or fungi. They are tiroxine crystals. The tiroxine it´s a proteine present in the ham. A traditional curing process it´s the proof of the appearance of those.


  •  You should rest the ham before its consumption

It depends on the type of cut. If the ham it´s directly sliced from the whole piece, you should take it at the moment. If the ham is previously sliced (in a vacuumed pack, for example) first let it temper so you can taste better the natural flavour and texture.



Don´t forget to share with us any other legend about the Spanish Ham!