jamon Serrani is the renowed Spanish dry-cured ham that is thinly sliced enough for the soft fat to melt in the mouth. It is cured in salt for 2 weeks, stored in towering piles for 2 months. The ham which is sweet and fatty becomes flat, and dense resulting from the pressure being stacked. Jamon Serrano is the delectable cured Spanish ham that any visitor to Spain is sure to have encountered at one time or another. Serrano ham is displayed in many bars hanging from the ceiling and also displayed prominently on a special stand known as a Jamonera in the perfect position for cutting. Cutting of this Jamon Serrano is something of an art itself as it is is never cut with a machine, but always manually using a special knife and the exact thickness is of great importance. Jamon Serrano is served best with acidic accompaniments like peppers, Membrillo (quince paste) and a glass of Sangria "Serrano" means "from the mountains". The ham has this name because its origins lie in the mountains and in the time before refrigerators the slow process of air curing was one of the best ways to preserve your meat. To make a serrano jam you take a nice fat pig's leg, rub it with salt and hang it in a cool, airey place. Traditionally the making of jamon Serrano sometimes also known as jamon iberico, would start in the autumn after the slaughtering of the pigs once the weather had cooled down. They are then hung out to dry in a place where there is minimal water but where the wind can get at them. The curing process is finished by the summer by which time the ham will have lost about a third of it's weight. The longer the ham is cured the better the flavor and in fact it continues curing until it's finally eaten. Pata Negra . A pata Negra is the ham most correctly termed jamon iberico as these Spanish hams come from the Iberian pig, a black pig descended from the wild boar. They were once the predominant race in Spain but are not so common today, being mainly found in Andalucia, and their hams are highly prized. The pigs that produce Jamon Serrano are pasture fed on acorns and it is this natural rearing which is so important in giving the meat its delectable and unique flavor. In today's health conscious world they are to be valued as a meat low in saturated fats and cholesterol and as such are an important part of the healthy Mediterranean Diet. Serrano ham contains a high level of oleic acid, a mono-unsaturated fat which can have the effect of lowering cholesterol levels and has also recently been proved to have anti cancer properties. This is the oil found in olive oil which has also been receiving very good reports in the health press in recent years. So next time you are in Spain be sure to try some Jamon Serrano, I am sure there isn't a bar in the land which does not serve this wonderful ham. Try asking for a catalan which is a bocadillo, or large roll, served with jamon serrano, cheese and olive oil. About the author: Ruth Polak is the owner of www.costadelsol-vacationrentals.com A web site specializing in holiday villas and apartments on the Costa del Sol and in Rural Andalucia. You will also find lots of information about Spain and Andalucia, in particular. By Ruth Polak Published: 11/1/2006

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