The origin, production process, and even the feeding of the pigs influence the differences between Serrano ham, Iberian ham, and prosciutto.
Although its appearance is similar, ham is a star product of European gastronomy, and as in everything, there are also different types and qualities. However, the differences are marked by the breed of pigs and their designation of origin between Serrano ham, Iberian ham, and prosciutto
The taste of a good slice of ibérico should be enough for you to tell the difference. It is richer and more fragrant than serrano or prosciutto. Iberian ham comes from pigs of an endemic breed of southwestern Europe and is distinguished from the rest by its type of diet. This is the reason why there is a greater variety of products:
Ibérico de Bellota (Acorn-fed Iberian). The pigs spent their last three months of free life in the field where they feed on acorns in the Montanera period, and sometimes they double their weight in this period.
Ibérico de cebo de campo. In their last three months of life, pigs are free, feeding on cereals and other natural resources found in the field.
Ibérico de cebo: comes from pigs that eat cereals throughout their lives.
Regarding its characteristics, Iberian ham has a stronger tone and an intense aroma, as well as its flavor, so it is easy to perceive the differences between Serrano ham, Iberian ham, and prosciutto.
Serrano ham comes from white pigs, and they are fed (compound) feed and raised on farms or stables where they remain confined. Its name comes from the place where it is cured, as it is regularly done in highlands with cold climates to promote the curing of the meat; There are currently three names for this product:
Bodega. A ham that was cured for a period of 9 to 12 months.
Reserva. This denomination corresponds to hams that were cured between 12 and 15 months.
Gran Reserva. A term that corresponds to hams with 15 months, or more, of curing.
You can identify it by its color, more pinkish compared to the rest of the hams, and a strong salty taste, caused by the salting and curing process. Both characteristics make the differences between Serrano ham, Iberian ham, and prosciutto very noticeable.
Certain prosciutto products, like Prosciutto di Parma, have a protected designation of origin (PDO) mark which means they must come from a specific geographical region and adhere to certain quality and production standards. In the case of Prosciutto di Parma, for example, production is traced
from the piglet to the product.
The pigs must be Italian born, their diet must include whey from Parmigiano Reggiano cheese production, and curing times tend to be longer than for their other prosciutto counterparts. The result is a superior product from an animal that has also eaten like a king. Its manufacturing process can last between nine months and two years depending on the type and to start production, the weight of the pig - Large White, Landrance or Duroc breed - must reach a minimum of 160 kilograms. This is one of the differences between the serrano ham, the Iberian ham, and the prosciutto.
Currently, there are 10 appellations of origin of prosciutto –all Italian–, however, two of them stand out in the world:
Prosciutto di Parma. This is characterized by a pronounced nutty flavor, thanks to the fact that the pigs are occasionally fed Parmigiano Reggiano whey.
Prosciutto di San Daniele. A ham whose flavor is softer and sweeter compared to the rest of the denominations; in addition to having meat of more intense and darker color.