Nowadays, the regulations on the quality of Iberian ham, covered by a Royal Decree, have very strict rules to guarantee the quality and origin of the hams and shoulders. Today I am going to talk about those hams that, although they are from Iberian pigs, are not certified as such, but many of them are of the same high quality.
Iberian pork ham out of standard
As you well know, Spanish hams with Iberian certification are regulated by a Royal Decree of 2014 on the quality of meat, loin, shoulder and Iberian ham. If you still don't know how they are labelled and what colours correspond to each type of ham, you can read this article.
This regulation includes both Iberian hams and Paleta iberico of cebo, cebo de campo, bellota and bellota 100% Iberico, but there are hams and shoulders that, although they are made with the legs of Iberian pigs, are not certified for several reasons that I will explain below, and therefore cannot be labelled as Iberian, nor mention that name, nor carry the bridle with its corresponding colour (plastic label that is placed on the hoof).
Characteristics of non-standard Iberico ham
There are several reasons why these cured hams and pork shoulders are not certified: that the Iberian pig has not reached the minimum weight stipulated in the quality standard; that the pig's leg, once its curing process has suffered a significant weight loss and does not reach the minimum weight established for the different types of Iberian hams; or simply, the producer, and this happens a lot, does not certify part of its production in order to save on expenses since the process of certifying a ham involves high costs, and therefore can sell these hams and shoulders at a lower price. However, it cannot mention "Jamón ibérico" anywhere on the product.
The regulations on the quality of Iberian ham can be found on the BOE website (Official State Gazette).
Quality of non-standard jamon iberico
Although these Spanish jamon and paleta are not labelled as Iberian ham, they really are. However, if you are going to buy a ham out of the Iberian quality standard, make sure it is from a reliable producer and get good information. Ask about the ham or shoulder, how they have been fed, whether they have been reared in the wild or on a farm, and I recommend that they are not too small in weight.
The ideal weight for a ham is from 7 kg and 5 kg for a shoulder. This is because the larger the piece, the longer the curing process will take and all its parts will be optimally cured. In the smaller weights, the curing process is shorter and it is possible that one part of the piece is more cured than another, a less homogeneous curing process. That is why certified Iberian hams are required by law to have a minimum weight, to guarantee that they have undergone a good curing process.
The vast majority of non-standard hams are hams from pigs reared in the wild and fed on the natural resources of the countryside. What in certified hams would be Cebo de Campo or Bellota, but we can also find pigs fed with feed and raised on a farm, so it is essential that you ask if you decide to buy Iberian ham out of norm.
Non-standard iberian hams, although their price is cheaper than certified Iberian hams, their price is higher than that of a Serrano ham.